The Karl Braun Collection and the Role of the Amani Institute during the German Colonial Period in Tanzania

Funding area:
Colonial contexts
Funding recipient:
Museumsverein Stade e.V.
Cooperation partner:
National Institute for Medical Research (Dar es Salaam)
Federal state:
Lower Saxony
Contact person:
Dr. Sebastian Möllers


Tel.Research assistant

Lea Maria Steinkampf

PositionWissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

Type of project:
long-term project

In 1902, the Reichskolonialamt (Imperial Colonial Office) founded the „Kaiserliche Biologischlandwirtschaftliche Amani Institut (Imperial Biological-Agricultural Amani Institute) in the Usambara Mountains of present-day Tanzania. In accordance with the imperial competitive mind set of the European colonial powers, the declared goal was to establish the largest botanical garden in the world. As part of a far-reaching network of agricultural and botanical research institutions that emerged in the course of European colonial expansion since the 19th century, the Amani Institute also contributed significantly to the global transfer of (invasive) plant species and enforced the economic interests of the German colonial power. Research, identification, and classification by scientists aimed to make plants useful for medicine, agriculture, and industry.

During his time as a leading botanist at the Amani Institute (1904-1920), Karl Braun (1870-1935) amassed a collection of items now held by the Museen Stade. Following his time in the colony, Braun headed the „Biologische Reichsanstalt für Land- und Forstwirtschaft (Biological Imperial Institute for Agriculture and Forestry) in Stade and shortly before his death donated the collection of nearly 600 objects to the city. Braun acquired the objects on his official travels through the former "Deutsch-Ostafrika" (German East Afrika), but also profited from the fact that the village of Amani was valued by numerous colonial actors as a "place of recreation" due to the climatic conditions and thus functioned as a transhipment point for objects from the entire colony. Behind the diverse collection of almost 600 objects which include everyday objects, weapons, instruments, or textiles Braun's botanical interest in processing techniques of local materials emerges. Accordingly, the objects can tell us not only about pre-colonial cultures, but also about their contexts of acquisition and the power asymmetries of a colonial transfer of knowledge.

The project "The Karl Braun Collection and the Role of the Amani Institute during the German Colonial Period in Tanzania" is realized by the Museen Stade in cooperation with the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), which today operates the Amani Hill Station in the Amani Nature Reserve. The aim is to highlight the power asymmetries in the network of transfer of objects in the context of the Amani Institute and to approach the histories of domination and sacrifice of the colonial institution. The object histories, their possible violent contexts of acquisition, and the role of Karl Braun will be reappraised in the context of the German colonial history of the Amani Institute. At the end of the project, the results of the provenance research will be published in three languages in an online database (German, English, Kiswahili) and made accessible in the context of an exhibition.

(c) Museumsverein Stade e.V.