Following the second meeting of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder of the Republic of Germany, and at the invitation of Monika Grütters, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, whose turn it was to host, the eleventh cultural policy summit meeting took place at the Federal Chancellery. The meeting was attended by Michelle Müntefering, Federal Foreign Office Minister of State for International Cultural Policy, the Cultural Affairs Ministers of the Länder, the Länder Senators for Cultural Affairs and representatives of municipal umbrella organisations.
During the meeting, the participants decided to set up a contact point in Germany for collections from colonial contexts, thus implementing a priority of the Framework Principles for dealing with collections from colonial contexts, which had been agreed at the last summit meeting.
The contact point will be funded in equal parts by the Länder and the federation. It will open in the first quarter of 2020 as part of the Cultural Foundation of the Länder. Its main role will be to serve as a contact point for individuals and institutions from the countries and societies of origin. As the first point of contact, it will provide access to information on collections in Germany from colonial contexts, as has frequently been requested by researchers.
The establishment of the contact point is an important step towards providing the greatest possible transparency. The Framework Principles state that a key goal of the federation, Länder and municipalities is to establish transparency and documentation on collections and objects. A large number of German museums and other institutions are already working on inventorying and digitising their collections and are providing data that can be used in the contact point’s guidance and networking activities.
Monika Grütters, German Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, commented as follows:
The Framework Principles define creating transparency as an important field of action. This will be a key task for the contact point that we agreed today to set up. Our team, which is made up of the federation, Länder and municipal umbrella organisations, will start working immediately on this matter. With the aim of facilitating an open and respectful exchange in a spirit of partnership, it will seek dialogue with experts and those concerned and suggest solutions that can ideally be implemented without delay.
Carsten Broda, Senator for Culture and the Media in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Chairperson of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder of the Republic of Germany, said:
Our goal is transparent information on the objects and our work with their countries and societies of origin. The establishment of the contact point shows that the consensus expressed by all levels of the state in the Framework Principles is making an impact. As the first point of contact for requests for objects to be returned, the contact point will facilitate restitution. It will play an important role in reaching understanding and reconciliation with the societies affected by colonialism.
Michelle Müntefering, German Foreign Office Minister of State for International Cultural Policy, said:
The Foreign Office supports the international aspects of the contact point’s work, particularly in the field of international cooperation and the possible returns of objects. We can only address our colonial past by working with the countries and societies of origin in a spirit of partnership.
Mayor Katja Wolf, Vice President of the Association of German Cities, and representing the Federation of German Local Authority Associations (Association of German Cities, Association of German Counties and German Association of Towns and Municipalities), said:
As funders of the majority of public museums, archives and libraries, the cities, counties and municipalities are taking on responsibility for addressing Germany’s colonial history. The contact point is an important first step in this regard.