Some 1.9 million euros for research into colonial contexts

In 2023 the German Lost Art Foundation approved a total of 13 projects on the subject of cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts.

In 2023 the German Lost Art Foundations approved a total of some 1.9 million euros for provenance research projects relating to colonial contexts. Applicant institutions included museums specialising in ethnology, natural history and cultural history, as well as archaeological collections. 13 projects are now in receipt of funding, including both long-term and short-term research projects.

The Lautarchiv (Sound Archive) at Humboldt University, Berlin, is among those receiving financial support: here research is focusing on sound recordings for the first time rather than objects. The Lautarchiv is investigating its collection of recordings of POWs from the First World War who were recruited in the colonies for the armies of European powers. It includes 456 audio documents of African prisoners in German camps. The digitised recordings and the associated documentation and data reports are to be shared with the Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire in Dakar, Senegal.

The role of missionaries in connection with colonial collecting activities is the subject of a project being undertaken by Übersee-Museum Bremen: the focus here is the origin of a collection compiled on behalf of the museum by the missionary Carl Spiess in around 1900 which consists mainly of sacred artefacts that belonged to the Ewe people in what is now southern Ghana and Togo. Researchers from Germany, Ghana, the Netherlands and Togo are involved. This is the first time that a project in this funding category has involved cooperation between several European countries.

The German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg, founded on 1 January 2015 by the Federal Government, the German federal states and the leading municipal associations, is the central point of contact in Germany for questions concerning unlawfully seized cultural property. The Foundation receives institutional funding from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media; this is also the source of funding for its projects. The Foundation’s main focus is on cultural property seized under National Socialism as a result of persecution, especially Jewish property. In addition, it is possible to apply for funding for projects that deal with cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts. A total of some 9.44 million euros has been approved for 73 projects in this category since funding began in 2019.

New proposals for longer-term projects can be submitted in the coming year by 1 October 2024, and in subsequent years by 1 April and 1 October; it is possible to submit proposals for short-term projects at any time. From 2 January 2024, it will also be possible to apply for funding in connection with short-term projects dedicated to the search for human remains or objects that are suspected of having been brought to Germany during the colonial period and whose current whereabouts is not known. All institutions in Germany under public law that collect, preserve or research collections from colonial contexts are eligible to apply. This includes museums, universities and other research institutions. Proposals can also be accepted from institutions that are recognised as non-profit organisations and have their registered office in Germany.

For further information on funding opportunities, see:

For more information on the individual funded projects, see the appendix (German only) to this press release.

German Lost Art Foundation
Press Office
Humboldtstr. | 39112 Magdeburg
phone +49 (0) 391 727 763 35