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What challenges and opportunities do museums face in dealing with colonial heritage?

With the opening of the exhibitions of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, numerous objects will be on display that arrived in Europe during the colonial period under often unequal power relations, sometimes even by force. These objects represent the erasure of knowledge, languages and practices, and are symbols of a context of injustice and violence, both in the past and present. 99 Questions takes a critical look at both institutional as well as German colonial history and aims to promote reflection on the colonial implications of the collections in the long term.

Together with international speakers and thinkers, we will develop ideas for future museum practices through discussing the historical impact of colonialism and its still-present consequences. The dialogue also aims to promote an understanding of the responsibility museums have towards local and global communities in order to make a common future in dealing with colonial legacy conceivable.

Over the course of a year, the project will question the standing of museums with collections from colonial contexts. How do they need to change? What future role can museums play for our society? Topics such as provenance research and restitution, transparency and digitisation, racism in science and representation, colonialism and the interpretational sovereignty of museums and collections will be discussed.

The 99 Questions series is curated by Michael Dieminger in collaboration with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

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