Accepted Paper:

has pdf download How to 'decolonize' a collaboration? The cultural heritage projects of the National Museum of Mali and the National Museum of Ethnology  


Annette Schmidt (National Museum of World Cultures)

Paper long abstract:

The National Museum of Mali and the National Ethnographic Museum in the Netherlands have been working together for almost three decades on several projects related to the preservation of cultural heritage in Mali. Both institutions have legacies rooted in colonialism. During the 1990s, institutional criticism began to shift the priorities in the collaboration between the museums towards more dialogue, cross-disciplinary research and equivalent cooperation. How did this affect the way these two museums worked together, fostered new understandings of collections and collecting, developed new models of partnerships, and reached out to different audiences in Mali and in the Netherlands? I will critically discuss the attempt of all parties to 'decolonize' this Malian-Dutch collaboration, its curatorial practices and the way in which the projects communicated with stakeholders. It will show that this was not a straightforward development, but an ongoing process in which justice and methods grow through the long-term practice. By sharing collections, by embracing greater accountability, and acknowledging their colonial legacies, the museums made concrete steps towards better museum policies that went beyond a mere inclusive cooperation and more to a partnership. By not only looking at boundaries and limitations, but also emphasizing possibilities and opportunities, it changed our museums practice and had far-reaching implications on how these museums manage, interpret and present their joint efforts, then and in the future.

Panel B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]