Sensitive Heritage: Ethnographic Museums, Provenance Research, and the Potentialities of Restitutions

Philipp Schorch


This introduction lays out this special issue, which juxtaposes articles on approaches to provenance research, conducted at German museum and university institutions, with articles on past, present and future potentialities of restitutions to originating societies in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and Namibia. In doing so, the issue makes the argument that provenance research and processes of restitution, and their underlying ethical and sensitive considerations, generate, rather than restrict, new knowledge. They are brimming with epistemic and ontological potentialities: for the people related to the material entities concerned, for the (anthropological) knowledge about them, and for the institutions involved. The ultimate goal pursued is the establishment and further development of provenance research and processes of restitution as ethnographic work and an integral dimension of ethnographic museums in the 21st century.

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Copyright (c) 2020 Philipp Schorch

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360