„I strongly believe in the interconnectivity of the cultures of the world“
Lesezeit 6 Minuten
Lone Monagen is museum manager and curator at the National Museum of Botswana. In the summer, she completed an ICOM exchange at the Museum of European Cultures. In this interview, she talks about what she learned and how the museum landscape in Botswana is developing.
What is your professional Background and how long have you been at the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (MEK)?
Lone Monagen: I am a conservation scientist and I work at the National Museum of Botswana in Gaborone. I have been at the MEK for a month as part of the ICOM Germany-Africa exchange this summer.
What do you do at the National Museum in Botswana?
I do many things like collection management, restoration, conservation and exhibition curation. At our museum, we have archeological, ethnographical and historic collections and we are currently working on our permanent exhibition and refurbishment of museum buildings, which will open for the public next year. Besides this, we also have many temporary exhibitions regarding different topics.
How did you come to the MEK?
I am member of the International Council Of Museums, ICOM, and I came across a call for applications by ICOM Germany. I was intrigued, so I applied and got invited to an interview which was sucessful – so I came here and took part in the exchange at the MEK.
What did you do at the MEK during your exchange?
The exchange was a great opportunity to learn. I talked with the curators of the museum about a lot of things, but one of my main interests is digitalization. So I learned a lot about the digitalization of the collection here at the MEK and it is especially interesting to me, because in Botswana we are working on digitalizing the collection as well. Besides this, I also learned about the collection of the MEK in general, how the objects are kept and cared for. I had the opportunity to tour the MEK collection storage and learn how collections are cared for and the documentation and cataloguing systems. I also went to the Rathgen Forschungslabor and talked to Bill Landsberger. He is an entomologist and has established an integrated pest management at all of the Berlin State Museums. He showed me his system, how it works and how they monitor the collection and secure it against any damage caused by rodents or insects.I was also able to see the chemistry laboratories and get a glimpse of heritage science and chemical analysis of cultural material which I identified with due to my background in Chemistry and my wish to further my career in heritage science and conservation.
Are you going to implement things you learned here at home?
Yes, there‘s a lot to learn and implement. I was able to have a very fruitful conversation on digitalization with the curators here that will surely benefit me back home. In Botswana, digitalizing our collections proves challenging, because there is information missing on many objects and there are some gaps in the provenances. So I am especially happy that I could get some tips on how to deal with these problems. The way collections are kept, records management, cataloguing and general housekeeping in MEK storerooms was one of the key elements of collection organisation we aspire to have.
Have you been able to share knowledge from your museum with the colleagues at the MEK as well?
Yes, I saw the African collection at the Ethnological Museum storage in Dahlem, especially some objects from Botswana, and I was able to identify some of the objects and share some additional information on them. Many objects in the collection of the Ethnological Museum were acquired during two historical expeditions around the world and some of them have very little information, so I was able to share what I know regarding the objects from Botswana and the curators where happy to learn about it and were able to add more detailed information to the catalogue. I remember one object in particular, which was displayed as being from Namibia and I happened to know more exact information on the origin of it, so I informed my colleagues here and they were able to get a better understanding of the African collections.
What is your conclusion after the four weeks you spent here? Was ist a good and fruitful exchange?
I think it was a good concept – even though it was just a few weeks, I personally learned a lot and got some important insights into how museums are run in Europe. In Botswana, we are not yet at the same level regarding the collection management and some other aspects of museum work, but we are working hard and the new insights I gathered will help a lot.
Cooperation between European and African museums and the idea of a shared, global cultural heritage are huge topics in Germany right now – do you think that it is the right way to go, from your perspective?
I think so and I strongly believe in the interconnectivity of the cultures of the world. For example, I was able to visit the Museum in Lehde during my stay here in Berlin, and I found some very fascinating similarities between the german historical arts and culture and the way we live in Botswana. So there must have been some exchange, especially during the era of European colonialism, and a lot of things are since then common both in Europe and Africa. We in Botswana have been colonized by the British, so I did not expect to seen many common things here in Germany, but there are some, actually. For example, in Botswana we have something called the „German print“, which is a certain pattern of colours on cloth, a style of attire. I was always wondering why it was called that, but when I was in Lehde, I saw the textile work that was worn by the women there and there are so many similarities, it was really fascinating.
What to you think about the restitution of objects that were brought to Europe in colonial contexts?
I know that Germany and Namibia have come to an agreement about the restitution of objects that were taken during the colonial era. And we in Botswana have lately ratified the UNESCO convention on restitution, so I believe that we will now begin to negotiate with foreign museums that have objects that belong to Botswana. I think an agreement might include returning objects as well as establishing a co-ownership. I don’t know which route we’ll take, but I am sure that this development brings many interesting new opportunities.
What is your favorite object in the collection of the MEK?
I found the „Weihnachtsberg“ very fascinating. It’s sort of a big diorama with model landscapes and mechanic figures that are moving and it tells the story of Jesus‘ birth and other famous, christmas-related scenes from the bible. It was created in the Erzgebirge region of Germany and is part of an old tradition of local ore miners. All the mechanical figures and th moving parts are very interesting, we don’t have anything like this in Botswana.
Zwei Forschungsprojekte am Ethnologischen Museum setzen sich mit dem gewaltsamen deutschen Kolonialismus in Tansania auseinander. Wie kamen die Objekte aus… weiterlesen
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