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8851 - The shaping of museum collections as complex field of negotiation: The case of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin

The constitution of museum collections is a complex process, which in the early times of modern museums comprised the dispersion of objects as much as their acquisition. Taking the Ethnological Museum of Berlin as example it is the aim of this paper, to show how collections were shaped continuously not only through acquisition but for a long period of the museum also through removal of objects. These objects were after their removal converted into things of exchange, commodities or gifts and ended up in other museums, university or private collections, commercial exhibitions and even at markets for antiquities. It will be shown, how the decisions about object-removals were influenced by disciplinary discourses, economical restraints, political trends and even personal interests of curators or administrators. Furthermore the dispersion of objects from the museum collections initiated the growth of a complex network of interacting curators, administrators, scientists, institutions and collectors who used the objects as media of communication about disciplinary questions as much as about political and economical aspects. While the removals and dispersion of museum objects does not belong to the museum policy anymore, this network is still alive and developed as an important aspect of this museum.

Keywords: networking, history of collecting, Ethnological Museum Berlin

Author: Hoffmann, Beatrix (Universität Pottsdam, Germany)

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