Call for Papers: Colonial Contexts in Libraries – Workshop at SBB in November 2023

The colonial past is increasingly the subject of public debate. Cultural heritage institutions bear a special responsibility, and museums in particular have already begun to reflect critically on their colonial entanglements and to investigate their colonial legacies. Provenance research and restitution debates have contributed to this. So far, libraries have played a marginal role in this debate, although the term “museums and collections” used in most official documents also includes historical collections held in libraries. The dbv Commission for Provenance Research and Provenance Cataloguing and the project IN_CONTEXT of the State Library Berlin in cooperation with the German Lost Art Foundation are taking this desideratum as an opportunity to take a closer look at how libraries deal with holdings from colonial contexts.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together actors from libraries, interest groups and research in this field to present holdings that are already known to be relevant and to conduct preliminary work on guidelines on how to deal with colonial holdings in libraries. The goal is both a fundamental discussion of how to deal with colonial contexts in libraries and a focus on specific holdings and topics. The workshop will focus on two themes:

First, the question of holdings in libraries that originate from colonial contexts of injustice will be raised. To what extent, for example, did objects come to Europe in connection with the looting of Magdala (1868) or the so-called Boxer War? To what extent do libraries already conduct provenance research and, if so, are there demands for restitution? How can provenance data be integrated into metadata?

Second, the question of holdings related to colonialism is addressed: How do libraries deal with so-called reception literature, such as travelogues or colonial nostalgia literature? To what extent does the topic also affect special collections such as maps, bequests or photo collections? How should scholarly literature from the colonial era be handled? How can these holdings be appropriately integrated into digital collections and repositories?

The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2023. The workshop language is German.

Call for Papers: Colonial Contexts in Libraries.

For any inquiries, please contact

Deutsche Version

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