Cimeter, crocodile and canopic yars: global stories in Brandenburg museums.
Stirrup vessel of the Moche culture, Peru, 400-550 AD (Museum Schloss Lübben, photo: Ronka Oberhammer/Lorenz Kienzle, CC BY-NC-SA)
Local history always also has global history inherent within it. Be it natural forces, innovations or ideologies that change the course of the world, their impacts are often felt even in the tiniest village. But the wish to explore, shape and master the world, which arises in the individual localities, connects the big picture with local events. While it was personal motives that drew people to faraway places, they were nonetheless often part of the global movements of their time.
European colonialism was one of these ideologies that changed the world. And it also persuaded people from Brandenburg to leave their homeland. The items were either brought back from around the world in the luggage of the travellers. Or, inspired by stories and images from afar, they were collected by the people at home. Quite often, these items found their way into museums.
Eight of these museums of Brandenburg joined forces to tell the story of their "global objects" in this exhibition. This is a new phenomenon, because these objects from colonial contexts largely remained unnoticed until now - either because their history is completely or partially unknown or because interpreting them raises difficulties.
The exhibition showcases objects and life stories whose exploration is still in its infancy. We very much encourage your cooperation in settling any such open questions.
Antiquity and Orient
People in 19th century Europe were fascinated by the ancient sites in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The ancient world is seen as the root of the Western world, and its legacies the role model for and source of Western civilization. Starting in the Renaissance, the sons of the nobility had often gone on educational journeys through Mediterranean countries and to the Holy Land. In the 19th century the upper middle classes began to join them. But travelling to the Orient also meant visiting foreign lands, seeing the fascinating structures of ancient civilizations and the settings of the Bible.
For Europeans, the Orient was both a place of longing and a counterpoint. Increasingly, the Western view of the Orient took on colonial overtones. Europeans felt superior to the Arab world intellectually and culturally. They regarded themselves as bearers of a higher civilization. In Brandenburg, this is what the Liebenberg manor house and castle, the Fürst-Pückler museum in Branitz and the Museum Neuruppin showcase.
Karl von und zu Hertefeld - the Margraviate Battle of Alexan
In 1831 a large mosaic was discovered during excavations in Pompeii. It depicts a battle between the Macedonian Alexander the Great and the Persian High King Darius III. This sensational find forments an interest in the Orient. Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, had a completed replica made as a tile mosaic. Another copy was aquired by his confidant Karl Adolf Freiherr von und zu Hertefeld (1794-1867), lord of the Liebenberg manor, in 1843. The copy is used in the manor first as a floor and later as wall decoration.
The objects shown here are in the Schloss & Gut Liebenberg.
"Neither contemporary nor future commentators will be able to do justice to such wonders of art; and following our educational observations and investigations we will be compelled to return to simple and pure admiration."
Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe on the Alexander battle mosaic in his letter to the archaeologist Wilhelm Johann Karl Zahn, 6.3.1832
3a - Alexanderschlacht / Fliesenbild
Between Orient and Occident
The tile picture depicting the Battle of Alexander was first used as flooring and later as a mural in the manor house. With its impressive size of 5.46 m x 2.86 m, the battle scene includes many exciting details. Click on the frames or hover the mouse over them to learn more about Alexander the Great's victory.
Prestigious space in the armoury
Around 1900 the lord of the castle, count Philipp zu Eulenburg, installed the tile painting in the castle's armoury. There it served as a splendid eye-catcher at the numerous receptions hosted by the count. Emperor Wilhelm II was also a frequent guest at Liebenberg and is likely to have marvelled at and admired the "Battle of Alexander".
Preserved for the future In the 1950s, the tile picture was removed from the armoury and taken to the upper floor of Liebenberg castle, where it remained until 2002. It was then taken off, disassembled and put in storage. It was not until 16 years later that the tiles were all laid out again and made accessible to the public. At the same time, the department for the conservation and restoration of murals at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences began assessing and restoring the individual tiles.
Restoration assessment of the tile picture at the Department of Conservation and Restoration - Wall painting of the FH Potsdam
Clicking on the objects gives you more information at museum-digital.de.
Prince Pückler – reports from the Orient
In 1835, prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871) embarked on a journey to the Orient. For four years he travelled in the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and along the Nile. His travel reports were veritable bestsellers and appeared in books and daily newspapers. His view of people in other parts of the world had a considerable influence on his contemporaries back home. The prince's reputation as an eccentric, womaniser and bon vivant also attracted attention. His self-promotions made him one of the most dazzling and famous people in Europe.
The objects for Fürst Pückler's life are in the Fürst-Pückler-Museum Park und Schloss Branitz.
Route of Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (Departure from Muskau May 24, 1834, Return to Muskau September 8, 1840)
"When unpacking the Egyptian crates, I kindly ask you to be very careful, as there are many extremely fragile things among them, and it would be regrettable if they were to perish."
Hermann von Pückler-Muskau,
Letter to his wife Lucie from Cairo, September 26, 1837
Boxes filled with souvenirs
While away on his travels, Prince Pückler sent home boxes of art and cultural artefacts, everyday objects of ethnographic significance as well as live and stuffed animals. He used the souvenirs to decorate rooms in Muskau Castle and later of his retirement home Branitz castle near Cottbus in an Oriental style. The Oriental objects were status symbols that had been a common sight at European courts for some time.
Sacrificial tablel, Fake (?), prob. 19th century (Erbengemeinschaft nach Fürst Pückler in Branitz bei der Stiftung Fürst-Pückler-Museum Park und Schloss Branitz, Photo: Ronka Oberhammer / Lorenz Kienzle, CC BY-NC-SA)
Although Pückler listed the objects he acquired in his letters, their cultural-historical significance and the circumstances of their acquisition remain to be fully clarified. As with the "sacrificial tablet" shown here, which is probably a fake. The "sacrificial tablet" shown here is probably a fake from the 19th century with its overloading symbolism and the surrounding text with phantasy hieroglyphs. It is still to be clarified whether the piece is actually a travel souvenir from Pückler.
Related Objects ...
The girl Machbuba
On his travel, Prince Pückler bought several slaves, including children. One of the children was the Abyssinian girl Machbuba. On his travels and in his writings, the prince used the girl for his often deeply colonial self-promotion. But the prince's travel reports also show a very differentiated view of the people and society of the Orient. This dichotomy is discussed to this day. The life and experiences of Machbuba remained largely obscured in Pückler's stories. She died of tuberculosis in 1840, one month after her arrival in Muskau. Her grave can still be found in the St. Jacobi cemetery today.
Wilhelm Gentz - the painted Orient
The fascination with the Orient of the Neuruppin-born painter Wilhelm Gentz (1822-1890) began in Andalusia in 1847. He visited the Alhambra palace and was fascinated by the "heyday of Arabian architecture". Later, Gentz made several trips to Egypt, Palestine and Asia Minor. His artistic renderings of his impressions made him the leading German representative of Orientalist painting.
The objects shown here about Wilhelm Gentz's life are in the Museum Neuruppin.
"I, for one, prefer to do original motifs"
Wilhelm Gentz, Letter to the publisher Georg Ebers, April 5, 1878
Meet at eye level
European Orientalist painting often proffered ideas and clichés. Not so in Gentz's case. His life and his work bore witness to a striving to understand foreign cultures and to meeting them at eye level. His pictures of landscapes, everyday life and people convey a varied and authentic perspective of the Orient.
Spared from the fire.
Wilhelm Gentz also sends many Orientalika to Berlin from his travels. During the Second World War, the family house burned down completely. Only a few pieces from the Orientalika collection are therefore still preserved today. Two of them came to the Neuruppin Museum.
In 1877 Wilhelm Gentz returned from his trip with an Abyssinian. Mohammed Farady was a servant in Gentz's house. Shortly before his death, Gentz captured the Abyssinian as an independent personality in a sensitive and expressive portrait. Other portraits by Gentz also convey this impression.
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2 - German colonialism
Germany became a colonial power relatively late. The first colonial initiatives were left to private companies. When these failed, the German Empire took over the territories scattered across Africa, Asia and Oceania. In the colonies, the military and civil service tried to enforce administrations based on the German model. Their aim was the economic exploitation of the colonies, but global strategic considerations also came into play.
The German public had little enthusiasm for the colonial aspirations. Economically, the colonies operated at a loss. Regular insurgencies were brutally suppressed. Objects brought over from the colonies can be found in the museums of Wusterhausen, Eberswalde and Falkensee.
Georg Ipscher - Surgeon major in Cameroon
In 1884, Cameroon became the second German colony in Africa. Surgeon major Dr Georg Ipscher from Wusterhausen was deployed there from 1900 to 1902 for the "Imperial Protection Force for Cameroon". Medical advances eventually allowed the Germans to conquer the areas plagued by malaria, yellow fever and smallpox. After his deployment in Cameroon, Ipscher continues to be a doctor in the German army. After 1990, his estate was donated to the "Wegemuseum Wusterhausen" museum.
"For the European, the climate is not digestible, because once he loses his mental elasticity and psychological resilience due to a longer stay, on the other hand he is extensively exposed to malaria and its aftermath."
Georg Ipscher in the "General medical report on the Imperial Guard for Cameroon for the reporting year 1900/1901"
"Africa room" in Wusterhausen
The estate of Georg Ipscher contains a photograph showing an "Africa room" in his house in Wusterhausen. The photo depicts numerous wooden statues, footstools, weapons, musical instruments and everyday objects of ethnographic significance. Only a few of these items made it into the "Wegemuseum Wusterhausen" museum: a wooden stool, a crocodile hide and photographs.
Sitting like a king
This wooden seat bearing the name and rank of Georg Ipscher is shaped, decorated and sized like a ruler's chair from the Cameroon Grasslands. At royal courts in Cameroon such wooden seats were a sign of status and rank and were reserved only for the king or his mother.
Related Objects ...
Paul Richard Berger - Soldier in Kiau-Chau
In 1898 the German Empire exacts a lease agreement with the Chinese Empire over the Kiao-Chau region. The soldier Richard Berger also went to the east coast of China with the "protection force" sent to Kiao-Chau. He was stationed in the capital of Qingdao. Berger originally came from Großkorbetha in Saxony, but then moved to Falkensee near Berlin after his time in Qingdao. After 1990, colonial memorabilia from his family's estate were gifted to the local museum.
"May no Chinese ever dare to look at a German askance again! "
From the "Hun Speech" (Hunnenrede) which Emperor William II delivered on 27 July 1900 in Bremerhaven on the occasion of the departing of the German East-Asian Expeditionary Corps to suppress the Boxer Rebellion in China.
Family life in the colony
In 1904 Richard Berger became a police guard in Qingdao. He married the German Anna Heinrich and they lived in the European quarter of Qingdao. Their children Curt and Elsa were also born there. With the beginning of the First World War, family life in the colony came to an abrupt end. The invasion of Japan was imminent. Anna Berger left Qingdao in August 1914. Her husband enlisted in the Landstorm troops. In January 1915, Richard Berger was taken prisoner of war by the Japanese; he returned to Germany only five years later.
Friedrich Hauser - Planter in New Guinea
Bernhard Friedrich Hauser (1878-1944) was born in Mülheim an der Ruhr. He lived in the German New Guinea colony for 26 years where he probably worked as a planter. Back in Germany, Hauser attempted to make a fresh start. In 1921 he purchased the Zainhammer forest restaurant in Eberswalde. The main attraction of the restaurant was the "colonial room" containing souvenirs from the South Seas as well as objects from Africa and Asia. It is likely that Hauser bought these items, because there is currently no evidence that he had travelled there himself.
"Recommend my newly equipped tropical room, a collection from the colonies, to visit. Fritz Hauser."
Advert in an Eberswalde daily newspaper from 1928
"Colonial Room" doesn't bring a boom
The collection was meant to attract guests, because people's fascination with foreign animals and regions continued unabated. There was a burgeoning enthusiasm for German colonialism between the world wars. But the restaurant was burdened with debts and never really took off. Hauser was forced to sell it in 1939 and moved to the nearby town of Finowfurt. He died there in 1944.
List with gaps
After the failure of his restaurant, Friedrich Hauser donated his collection to the town of Finow in 1939. The preserved list of transferred items with 325 numbers and about 430 pieces includes zoological specimens, ethnographic objects, weapons, pictures and photos. Only a few remaining items from the collection end up in the Museum Eberswalde in 1960. The list from 1939 contains very little information. In most cases we do not know where the objects came from, their original function or how Friedrich Hauser acquired them. These are questions that are yet to be answered.
Related Objects ...
3 - Postcolonialism
With its defeat in the First World War, Germany loses all its colonies. Other European countries held on to their possessions until the 1970s before the will for independence and revolutions prevailed. The colonial period had brought enormous social, political and economic upheavals to the regions. The structures and attitudes imposed by the colonial masters still characterise the now independent countries today. In Brandenburg, collections in the Lübben Castle and the natural history museum in Potsdam tell about postcolonialism.
Götz von Houwald - Diplomat in Central America
The diplomat Götz von Houwald (1913-2001), who grew up in Lübben, worked in Central and South America for Germany since the 1950s. Among other places, he worked in Peru and Nicaragua, which were Spanish colonies until the 1820s. The purchase of ceramics from archaeological finds is a popular hobby among diplomats and teachers at German schools abroad, a practice that bears traits of a colonialist mindset. Götz von Houwald is also a passionate collector of pre-Columbian art.
Nasca cup with five so-called rain gnomes, 400 AD (Museum Schloss Lübben, on loan from Dr. Götz-Dieter Freiherr von Houwald, photo: Ronka Oberhammer / Lorenz Kienzle, CC BY-NC-SA)
Rain gnomes in Lower Lusatia
Götz von Houwald collected more than 750 objects, mostly from Central America, but also, like this colorful Nasca cup, from South America. Later he began to reflect on the moral illegitimacy of his actions. Due to his family connections to Lower Lusatia, he bequeathed part of the collection to the Lübben Castle museum. Some objects do not yet have proper caption and we would welcome suggestions.
Related Objects ...
„There are word formations of poetic beauty, such as "yalawas" = star water, for dew, the dew that settles on the grass in the cool of the morning whose individual drops glitter like stars in the first rays of the sun.“
G.v. Houwald in his book "Oral traditions of the Sumu-Indians", 1984
Support for the Mayangna
After his retirement in 1975, Götz von Houwald campaigned for the Mayangna in Nicaragua. The indigenous population living in the north of the country experienced hardship during the Sandinista revolution. Von Houwald established a foundation to support the Mayangna and was particularly committed to documenting their language. Götz von Houwald's estate in the museum in Lübben includes numerous tape recordings of oral traditions. The recordings are to be made available to projects dedicated to the digitisation of indigenous languages and that make them accessible to today's speakers and the heirs of these cultures.
Sumu on tape
Song titled "Beautiful Girl" in Sumu, the language of the Mayangna.
Original commentary by Götz von Houwald on the song "Beautiful Girl".
Revolutionary song. The song was recorded during the Sandinista Revolution in spring 1981.
Original commentary by Götz von Houwald on the revolutionary song.
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Werner Lamberz - GDR politician in Cuba
The liberation history of Cuba is impressive: Freed from Spanish colonial rule in 1898, formal independence from the USA in 1902, sovereignty in 1934 and Fidel Castro's socialist revolution against the Batista dictatorship in 1959. The kindred spirits in East Germany are initially suspicious about the confident Cuban state. It was not until head of state Erich Honecker's time that a close relationship was established, which brought sugar, bananas and the Cuban orange, a notoriously fibrous fruit, to East Germany. In 1971, a crocodile makes its way from the Caribbean island to East Germany.
The crodcodile is a gift from Fidel Castro to Werner Lamberz, member of the Politburo of the CC of the SED. Lamberz is a friend of Castro and his personal advisor during the first state visit of the Cuban President to East Germany in 1972. The crocodile has had its place in the Lamberz family's winter garden for a long time. Then in 2014 it will be a gift to the Potsdam Natural History Museum. Here it is an exotic that also receives special attention from a conservation point of view.
European colonialism has worked its way into the smallest places around the world. People from Brandenburg also visited distant lands. They brought new things, stories, experiences and perspectives home. Your contact with the wider world in turn influenced the hometown towns and villages. Brandenburg museums tell of these characteristics. They combine local and regional history with global history. Visit our museums to learn more about them.
We have information on Brandenburg's museums on the website of the Brandenburg Museum Association: www.museen-brandenburg.de
Many other digital objects and stories from Brandenburg's museums can be found on the museum portal museum-digital:Brandenburg.
The exhibition will be published by
Museumsverband des Landes Brandenburg e.V.
Am Bassin 3
legally represented by Dr. Susanne Köstering, Geschäftsführerin
Telefon: +49 331 23 27 912, Fax: +49 331 23 27 920
The exhibition was created with the module md/story and presented on the platform museum-digital.de.
Cooperation partner: Stiftung Fürst-Pückler-Museum Park und Schloss Branitz-Cottbus (Dr. Simone Neuhäuser, Susann Harder), Museum Eberswalde (Birgit Klitzke, Doreen Pagel, Wolfgang Stohr), Museum und Galerie Falkensee (Gabriele Helbig, Bert Krüger), Schloss & Gut Liebenberg (Dr. Thomas Steller), Museum Schloss Lübben (Dr. des. Corinna Junker, Marianne Wenzel), Museum Neuruppin (Maja Peers-Oeljeschläger, Carola A. Zimmermann), Naturkundemuseum Potsdam (Dr. Jobst Pfaender, Dr. Dirk Berger, Christian Blumenstein, Nancy Armas Martinez), FH-Potsdam (Prof. Dr. Jan Raue, Janin Opel), Wegemuseum Wusterhausen/Dosse (Katharina-A. Zimmermann), museum-digital (Joshua Enslin)
Conception: Dr. Ulrike Kersting, Dr. Susanne Köstering, Arne Lindemann
Texts: Dr. Ulrike Kersting, Arne Lindemann
Editorial staff: Dr. Susanne Köstering, Alexander Sachse, Lisa Gösel
Technical implementation and design: Joshua Enslin
Object photography: Lorenz Kienzle und Ronka Oberhammer (if not stated otherwise)
Video clips: Alexandra Pohlmeier
We thank you for the opportunity to show pictures of loans to the participating museums: Theodor Fontane Archiv Potsdam, Erbengemeinschaft nach Fürst Pückler in Branitz; Familienverband der Grafen, Freiherrn und Herren von Houwald e.V., insbesondere Eberhard Freiherr von Houwald.
We thank for the support with the content research: Dr. Claudia Kalka (Ethnologin, Museumsverbund Nordfriesland), Dr. Miriam Kühn (Kuratorin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz), Prof. Dr. Angelika Lohwasser (Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Universität Münster), Prof. Dr. Stephan Seidlmayer (Direktor der Abteilung Kairo des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts)
The project was funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of the State of Brandenburg.