Decolonizing the Museum – Transnational Comparisons

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Executive Conference Room, Intercultural Center 700

3700 O Street NW

Washington, DC 20057

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The BMW Center for German and European Studies

invites you to:

Decolonizing the Museum – Transnational Comparisons

A conference at Georgetown University and Howard University


In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, DC, against the background of intense debates about public memorialization of slavery and the Civil War, and calls for reparations. Meanwhile, a growing number of exhibitions in German museums have begun to tackle German colonial history, including the genocide of Hereros and Namas in what was then German-Southwest Africa, and explore its legacies in a culturally diverse society. Historians, curators, artists, and activists in both countries are at the center of discussions about dire pasts, the politics of collecting and exhibiting, and the possibility of repair.

Scholars and curators from the USA and Germany will speak about recent efforts to create postcolonial approaches to cultural heritage, cosmopolitan pedagogy, and museums’ engagement with postcolonial communities.

The conference will include a keynote by a prominent scholar of museum studies; two academic panels presenting case studies on exhibiting the colonial past from Germany and slavery in the USA; and two roundtables with scholars from Georgetown University about GU’s efforts to come to terms with the university’s history of slavery, and with artists addressing German colonialism in their work, respectively.

Schedule of Events


Venue: Intercultural Center 700, Executive Conference Room (ECR), Georgetown University

10:00am: Introduction and Welcome

Katrin Sieg, BMW Center for German and European Studies, Georgetown University
Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University

10:30am: Keynote

Silke Arnold-de Simine (University of London): “Challenging Futures – Painful Pasts: Memory, Mourning and Activism in Museums and Heritage Sites”

12:00pm: Lunch

1:00pm: Panel I: Exhibiting Slavery, Imagining Repair

Ana Lucia Araujo (Howard University): “Slavery, Museums, and Memorials: Limits and Possibilities of Symbolic Reparations”

Nancy Bercaw (Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution): “Slavery, History, and the Exhibition of Catastrophe: Re-thinking Curatorial Practice”

Ibrahima Seck (Whitney Plantation, New Orleans): “A Journey through Slavery on the German Coast of Louisiana”

Nelly Schmidt (UNESCO Slave Route Project): “After Abolition, a New Colonialism: Museographic Challenges”

Moderator: Mary Elliott, National Museum of African American History and Culture

3:30pm: Coffee break

4:00pm: Roundtable: Institutions Respond to their History of Slavery

Benedict Carton (George Mason University)

David Collins (Georgetown University)

Marcia Chatelain (Georgetown University)

Derek Goldman (Global Lab on Politics and Performance, Georgetown University)

Elizabeth Thomas (Georgetown University Graduate Student)

Kirt von Daacke (University of Virginia)

Moderator: Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University

6:00pm: Dinner reception


Venue: Ralphe J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University

9:30am: Panel II: Exhibiting German Colonialism

Marie Muschalek (Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg): “The Case of Colonialism: German Master Narratives and Alternatives at the German Historical Museum in Berlin”

Imani Tafari-Ama (University of the West Indies): “Skeletons in the Closet: Curating the Colonial History of Flensburg, Germany’s ‘Rum City’”

Heike Hartmann (Humboldt University): “’German Colonialism: Fragments of its History and Present’ at the German History Museum, Berlin”

Moderator: Katrin Sieg, Georgetown University

11:30am: Artists’ Presentations

Dierk Schmidt, “The Division of the Earth: Tableaux on the Legal Synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference and Broken Windows

Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, “We Built the Kilimanjaro: The Revenge of the Crystal in the Economy of Darkness

Moderator: Catrina Hill, Curator of American Art, NMAAHC

1:30pm: Visit to National Museum of African American History and Culture

6:00pm: Dinner for conference participants

Date and Time


Executive Conference Room, Intercultural Center 700

3700 O Street NW

Washington, DC 20057

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