Writings collection at Museum Fünf Kontinente Munich

Project Funding for Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts

On this page, publicly funded institutions and private institutions recognised as non-profit organisations which are interested in applying for project funding in the area of “Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts” will find information about the possibilities of obtaining project funding and can download all the documents required for submitting a proposal.

General Information

In January 2019, following a decision by the Foundation Board, the German Lost Art Foundation set out the conditions for the funding of provenance research projects on cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts and for basic and contextual research relating to this field. The corresponding Guideline for the funding of provenance research projects on “Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts” came into force on January 1, 2019, and a revised version has been available since January 2, 2024. In early February 2019, the Funding Committee "Colonial Contexts" was established to evaluate research proposals.

In its understanding of the term “colonial contexts” the department follows the “Guidelines for German Museums. Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts”. The funding guideline focusses on cultural goods and collections that were taken to Europe in the course of colonial expansion. Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts are found in various types of museums and collections, not just in ethnological museums. Appropriate handling of such artifacts requires interdisciplinary and international cooperation and, in particular, unbiased collaboration with experts, interest groups and institutions, as well as with potential claimants from the countries and communities of origin.

On March 13, 2019, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder together with representatives of the German government and leading municipal organizations agreed on the Framework Principles for Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts. The “Framework Principles” cover important questions such as transparency, provenance research and the return of cultural goods and collections.

Like the “Framework Principles”, the Foundation’s activities are thus oriented to the following funding objectives:

  • systematically and sustainably reviewing the provenance of cultural goods from colonial contexts in public museums and collections, including libraries and archives, in Germany;
  • researching and addressing fundamental general questions regarding cultural goods from colonial contexts in public museums and collections, including libraries and archives, in Germany (basic research);
  • documenting the research results, particularly in order to make them publicly accessible in digital form.

In addition, the following aims shall be promoted and reinforced:

  • raise and increase awareness of the importance of provenance research relating to cultural goods from colonial contexts, especially in institutions that have no or very little experience in this subject;
  • support the development of specific documentation and publication standards for cultural goods from colonial contexts;
  • promote the transfer of knowledge between the institutions that collect goods and support the development and strengthening of national and international research networks that include the countries and communities of origin;
  • encourage the sharing of findings and experiences from the projects as part of education and training activities.

Applications may be submitted by publicly funded institutions based in Germany that collect or hold cultural goods from colonial contexts and institutions that carry out research in this field. These include museums, libraries, archives, and university collections. Since January 1, 2021, private legal entities based in Germany that collect, hold, or research cultural goods from colonial contexts and which are recognized as serving public-benefit purposes under Section 59 in conjunction with Section 52 of the German Fiscal Code are also eligible to submit proposals for provenance research. We welcome joint applications from more than one institution, such as a museum and a university, or several museums, especially if they concern collection holdings or contexts that are closely linked historically.

Applicants should, wherever possible, work closely with partners from the countries of origin of the collections—ideally right from the conceptualization stage of the project and when compiling the research application. Since January 1, 2021, it is therefore possible to submit essential portions of the research proposal in English. Please be sure to coordinate submissions of proposals in English with the department in advance. For designing the cooperation, a cooperation agreement can be useful. Parts of the funds provided by the Foundation may also be used in the countries of origin of the collections.

Our funding is intended to enable provenance research. The awarded grant can be used for creating fixed-term staff posts, contract work, and also for travel costs and material expenses.

Forms of Project Funding

Long-term research need

Funding is provided to meet a shortfall in financing. It is therefore only possible to apply for supplementary funding towards the project costs, i.e. the applicant must make their own financial contribution to the project costs. The amount the applicant contributes must take into account the applicant’s size, funding body and financial resources. An application can be submitted for a period of up to 24 months with the option to extend the project. The total duration should not exceed 36 months. In exceptional cases, a project duration of up to 60 months is possible. However, it may also make sense to propose a project with a shorter term initially (e.g. 12 months) and then submit an extension request for a longer duration later on. This could be the case, for example, if you are planning to do basic preliminary work first as part of the project, such as determining the regional origin of objects, and then establish the relevant international cooperative partnerships in a second stage. Applications for new long-term projects can be submitted this year on October 1, 2024 and then in subsequent years on April 1 and October 1.

Short-term research need

With regard to the funding of short-term projects, Section VI (3) of the Foundation’s funding guideline makes explicit reference to the particular urgency of the project and of individual research cases. Particular urgency is deemed to exist if, for example, a request for information or for a return has been made by a third party. Short-term research need can also exist in the case of an Initial Check (see Section IV (1) 1). Such projects are established for the purpose of an initial, cursory examination of suspicious circumstances in institutions that collect or hold cultural goods, but which themselves do not have the necessary staff capacity for this examination. In both cases, an application for full financing can be submitted, i.e. the applicant usually does not have to make their own financial contribution. €40,000 is the maximum funding amount that can be applied for. The application can be submitted for a period of up to six months; an extension is not possible. A proposal that meets a short-term research need can be submitted at any time; it is not tied to the application deadlines for long-term projects.

The team at the Department for Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts is available to answer any questions and offer advice about designing and preparing projects and submitting applications.

Important documents


Further Content

Schomburg Fotobuch - Zahlung an Häuptling
Basics & Overview
Basic information on the colonial period, provenance research in colonial contexts and the actors involved
Benin bronzes in the permanent exhibition of the Übersee-Museum.
The situation regarding the return of cultural goods and collections from colonial Contexts – including prominent examples
Title of the Periodical “Provenance & Research”
Publications and events in the field of cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts