Interview with Martin Radermacher on the Mission History Collections Conference today
Under the title "Mission History Collections Today: The Museum as Contact Zone", around 40 guests gathered at the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) at the RUB for a conference from 1 to 3 June 2022. Dr Martin Radermacher, religious studies scholar at CERES, is co-organiser of the conference. In an interview, he explains what the conference was about, what is interesting about mission history collections and what further steps are planned in this context.
Dr Radermacher, how did the format of this conference come about?
Radermacher: "In the history of CERES, there is the KHK, the Käte Hamburger Kolleg. The KHK entered a so-called transfer phase in 2020, after more than ten years of research activity. In this phase, research should no longer be the primary focus, but the knowledge generated should be transferred and brought to an interested public. Within this framework, we developed various formats: A lecture series, a children's book and also an exhibition format around mission collections. For this purpose, we started to visit the different collections and to network these contacts with each other. This conference also emerged from this endeavour to network collections and research."
What is special about mission collections?
Radermacher: "In mission collections, one can see religious and cultural contact particularly well. Nevertheless, they are a research gap. There is already literature on them, but not too much. That was an additional incentive for us."
So the conference is a first step towards closing this research gap?
Radermacher: "Exactly. The point is to discuss the situation of the collections together and to develop perspectives and ideas for future collaborations. To achieve this, we have invited representatives from politics and from the regional associations and, of course, also researchers from CERES and other institutions. The lectures are thematically very diverse, partly theoretical, but also practically oriented, both related to exhibitions and to research."
And what is the medium-term goal?
Radermacher: "Our goal is to research mission history collections together with missionary associations, religious houses and academics. But the conference makes me feel very positive, because the implementation is going very well. All the players here are very interested and see the need to network and pull together. Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Chairman of the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States, and María Leonor Pérez Ramírez, Project Coordinator of the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States, were also present and very much approve of our initiative. I also notice a great willingness from the collections and museums to work together on the topic."
Are there also critical voices?
Radermacher: "The handling of colonial collections is a hotly debated topic in the public for good reason. The self-perception of religious orders and missionary associations differs from their perception by external parties, such as the press and politicians. Our concern is to constructively enrich this discourse through differentiated and factual research."
What further steps are you planning at CERES?
Radermacher: "We will continue to research in this direction and continue to network. In addition, we have our own collection, a donation from the Africa missionaries "White Fathers". We would like to go into this more intensively, this should be processed and documented and I suspect that CERES will continue to deal with the topic for quite a while. But the most important thing is the mutual support and the fact that resources can be pooled. What the collections can't do on their own, you can possibly do if you join forces."
You mentioned an exhibition format at the beginning. Can interested parties already look forward to a concrete exhibition?
Radermacher: "Yes, we have a concrete exhibition project planned with the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne. The exhibition will take place in 2024/2025."
Thank you very much for the interview.