Decolonisation, restitution, and repatriation

The restitution of important cultural objects and repatriation of deceased community members is a vital component of decolonisation. The department "Wissenschaftliche Sammlungserschließung und -dokumentation" handles repatriation and restitution cases for the three ethnographic museums in Dresden, Leipzig, and Herrnhut.

what is decolonisation?

What is decolonisation?

Decolonisation describes a social movement and a practice that seeks to identify historical and continuing colonial power structures. Its central aims are to reflect upon and deconstruct continuing colonial historie(s) and racism present in today's institutions and interactions. Within decolonisation, new possibilities arise to differently handle shared heritage and, not least, encounter one another.

© Miriam Hamburger, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2019
Yawuru and Karajarri delegates lead a repatriation ceremony in the Australian Embassy in 2019

What is restitution?

What is restitution?

Restitution describes the process of returning cultural or religious objects from museum collections to the communities from which they were acquired. These objects were unjustly removed from their previous contexts in the colonial period or under colonial hierarchies.

For more detailed information click on FAQ below.

© Miriam Hamburger, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
From left to right: Dr. Eva-Maria, Dr. Birgit Scheps-Bretschneider, Neil McKenzie, and Dianne Appleby meet in the Australian Embassy in Berlin.

what is repatriation?

What is repatriation?

Repatriation describes the process of bringing and returning soldiers or civilians back to their home countries after their death. In a museum context, repatriation describes the return of human remains to the community from where they once came.
Today, the objectifying terminology of human remains is placed aside in favor of the humanising name ancestors. We do this because we are talking about human beings. When we change language patterns and grammar around these sensitive issues, we also change our perspective in how we come in contact with other people. These family members, community leaders, and neighbors were considered as objects of scientific study after entering the collections. With our changing speech, we consider them as a people again.

© Miriam Hamburger, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Ceremonially adorned Yawuru and Karajarri ancestors prepare for the journey back home.

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© Gabriele Richter, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
© Miriam Hamburger, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden


© Kimberley West, Goolarri Media Enterprises

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Provenance Research at the SKD

Available in German only.

© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Get in touch

Research Requests

Dr. Birgit Scheps-Bretschneider
Head of Provenance Research and Restitution
Curator Australia / Pacific
Tel. +49 341/97 31-915

Content & Curation

Miriam Hamburger
Research Assistant Provenance Research and Ancestral Remains
Tel. +49 341/97 31-923

Jan Heidtmann
Freelancer in Public Relations
Transcultural Studies (M.A.)

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