Foundation of a Network for sustainable research structures in colonial contexts

On Monday, 23rd November 2020, protagonists from around 30 cultural and academic institutions and working groups launched a cooperation for the establishment of sustainable research structures for handling collections and holdings from colonial contexts.

The DFG round table was organized by the Working Group Colonial Provenances, part of the Research Association for Provenance Research, the German Lost Art Foundation, the Specialized Information Services African Studies and Social and Cultural Anthropology as well as the Coordination Centre for Scientific University Collections in Germany at the Humboldt University Berlin. During this day-long round table, participants discussed joint strategies concerning synergy effects, possibilities for access to data and possible next steps. The main objective was to bring together protagonists who require digital access to research data on the colonial period and those who create and guarantee such access in the long term. Another aim was to improve coordination and networking between projects in various professional and institutional fields and to identify the needs of the institutions and researchers involved.

The key challenges that were discussed across disciplinary and institutional boundaries were how to avoid isolated solutions, improve sustainability and ensure respectful handling of sensitive data while maintaining transparency. Other issues of importance included agreement on standards and improved international cooperation in the planning of projects. A follow-up meeting is planned for February 2021, at which further steps will be discussed. These will include the establishment of a working group dealing with thesauri and standardized data, the preparation of a workshop intended as a model for international cooperation and further consolidation of the network.

Together with members of the working groups and institutions, who initiated the meeting, representatives of libraries, archives, museums and collections, of funding and infrastructure institutions, as well as provenance researchers and scholars from the fields of history, cultural anthropology, political science and others, participated in the discussion. They were joined by experts on digitization in the scientific and cultural sector.

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