Open AfriColl GU

A postcard with two globes showing the African continent and the text "Opening up the collections at Goethe University Frankfurt" below

Welcome to Open AfriColl – Objects from Africa in the Collections of the Goethe University. By providing an overview of available information concerning the number, status and provenance of objects in diverse research collections, this project website aims to establish a baseline of transparency concerning objects originating from the African continent held by the Goethe University in Frankfurt (GU).

Irrespective of the circumstances of acquisition, these objects are now more visible to anyone wishing to access material ranging from sound recordings and photographs, to copies of rock paintings and plant specimens. In this way, the project lays the foundation for future cooperations between the collections of the GU and African partners. In the effort to document the current state of object information, Open AfriColl equally draws attention to significant gaps in knowledge concerning both the provenence and contents of certain collections. In this respect, the project is intended as a catalyst for future engagements.


The AirTable database provides an insight into the contents of collections included in the project. The database does not record individual objects from the collections, but rather object groups (i.e. partial contents from the collections) that were compiled in cooperation with custodians. The criteria that determine the compilation of an object group differ in each case, ranging from geographical origin to period or material, but also reflect the current status of data quality and availability in the collection.

Owing to the colonial contexts that frame object histories in some (but not all) collections, it is important to underline the sensitive nature of some of the material. In certain instances, objects carry titles using racist or otherwise outdated terminology. The insertion of content notes contextualising colonial histories and representations fell for the most part beyond the scope of this project, especially as certain object groups exceeded our capacities to index every object. For the same reason, comprehensive information is available for very few data entries. More often gaps are visible, in many cases leaving important aspects unexplained and demanding further research.

Furthermore, we are aware that via standardization of information, i.e. by assigning names and classifying them into categories, boundaries are established. These boundaries shape information in a way that does not represent the vivid, ambiguous and dynamic nature of objects. Yet, they provide us guidelines and help us accessing data. However, these limitations should be kept in mind when browsing the database.

In addition to the keyword search tool, the database also includes filters which sort object groups according to region of origin, date or collection. If there is further information or other possibilities to research individual objects within the collections, you will find corresponding notes within the data entries. Information on the meaning and scope of the data fields is listed in the tab Field explanations. Information on how to use AirTable in general are available here and here.

Map overview of the object groups

This map represents an attempt to visualise the relationship of particular object groups with certain regions in Africa. We recognise that contemporary national borders often do not correspond with the geopolitical organisation of the African continent at the time when various objects were collected. In fact, most object groups combine objects deriving from the territories of numerous present-day nation states, therefore, in many cases multiple data are present.


Collections

Depot in a collection, in the background a map showing the African continentObjects originating from, recorded in or with particular relevance to the African continent could be identified in the following collections and affiliated institutes of the GU. Most of the collections are used for research, teaching and public engagement, but the approaches to object-based teaching or research vary between departments. While some collections have a strong focus on Africa, other collections tend to focus on other geographical regions and object types.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to find detailed information on object groups in every collection, either due to the absence of existing inventories or in some cases due to insufficient resources. If entries for certain object groups are missing from the database, more information may be available by contacting the corresponding collections listed here.

16mm Film Archive
Ancient History Collection
Archaeo-botanical Reference Collection
Collection of Ancient Oriental Studies
Collection of the Former Institut of Anthropology
Comics Archive
Frobenius Institute
Geoscientific Collections
Oswin Köhler Archive
Picturing History Atlas
University Library: Africa Collection
University Library: Colonial History Collections
University Library: Manuscripts and Incunabula
Pre- and Protohistory Teaching Collection
Scientific Garden

Resources

Open AfriColl is not a research project. Detailed research into the provenance and contents of object groups was therefore outside the scope of our aims. Here, we share links to projects at the Goethe University and beyond which involve a deeper engagement with some of the object groups featured in the Open AfriColl database. Further resources and the names of organisations concerned with objects of African origin are also listed below.

Projects at Goethe University

Resources and further information from within the Goethe University

External resources


Contact

Project managers

Dr. Judith Blume
Dept. Curation, Research Services & Engagement
Head of University Collections Coordination
Tel.: +49 69 798 39197
E-Mail: j.blume [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Sebastian Burger
Dept. Curation, Research Services & Engagement
Project member at University Collections Coordination
Tel.: +49 69 798 39278
E-Mail: s.burger [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Collaborators

Melda Demir
Dominik Enkelmann
Carina Harter

English language proof-reading

Silas Edwards
Anne Schumann Douosson
Anne Wibrow

The logo of the Open AfriColl GU projectLogo of the Goethe University collections
Logo of the University Library J.C. Senckenberg, showing the head of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe above the claim "Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am main"

Available object groups:

  • Films with African Place of Production and Scene of Action

The 16 millimetre film archive was established immediately after the founding of the Institute of Theatre, Film and Media Studies in 1991 and expanded in subsequent years. The object group of early cinema reels (dating from 1895 until around 1918) comprise the valuable basis of the collection. These are primarily 16 millimetre copies that were specially made specially for the film professorship of 35 millimetre coloured negatives housed in the Netherlands Film Museum (today, the Eye Filmmuseum). These early films in particular are often unavailable to rent or access otherwise and are very rarely shown in public. Other sources for newly made copies in the collection – including numerous experimental films – are the Museum of Modern Art and Blackhawk Films. An extensive number of screening copies was subsequently accessioned to the collection at the end of the 1990s following the closure of the cine film rental company “Atlas Film”. This event precipitated a new focus on films d’auteur from the 1950s to the 1980s. The archive has equally been supplemented by private donations. Finally, the archive houses the films of the Kinothek Asta Nielsen e. V., (associated with the Cornelia Goethe Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies), which are available to academic faculty for internal use.

Two films with relevance to the African continent can be found in the film archive. These are the film reels of “Mirt Sost Shi Amit” (1975), the first film made by the Ethiopian director Haile Gerima’s in his homeland, and “A World Apart” (1987/88), a British-Zimbabwean production directed by Chris Menges and set in South Africa during the apartheid era.

Contact:

Bettina Schulte Strathaus
Tel.: +49 69 798-32083
b.schulte-strathaus [at] tfm.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Various Objects from Egypt
  • Spearheads from Morocco

Thanks to its own excavations, gifts, and numerous permanent loans, the department Vorderasiatische Archäologie (Near Eastern Archeology) at the Institute of Archeology owns more than 1.200 objects from ancient oriental cultures, mostly ceramics, bronzes, glass objects, and a large amount of archeological findings from Northern Syrian excavation site Tell Chuera. The area of ancient oriental sculpture is also being developed through the targeted acquisition of replicas. While the majority of the objects originates from the Near Eastern region, the collection also compromises small object groups form Northern Africa.

The objects are mostly untreated and offer rich material for qualification work and research projects. They are also used in teaching since they allow an immediate view which is essential for archeological education. A small part of the collection is also presented in the institute’s exhibition room in the IG-Farben building and can be observed by appointment with the person in charge of the collection. As part of a digitalisation project founded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) parts of the collection were prepared for a digital publication and therefore help the public representation of the studies.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Dirk Wicke
Tel.: +49 69 798-32317
wicke [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Objects from Alexandria I
  • Objects from Alexandria II
  • Objects from Alexandria III
  • Objects from Alexandria IV
  • Objects from Alexandria V
  • Objects from Alexandria VI
  • Objects from Alexandria VII
  • Ancient Coins from Alexandria and Libya

The founding of the Archaeological Institute at the Goethe University was accompanied by the establishment of a new collection in 1918. The foundations of the collection were provided by gifts received by the professor Hans Schrader from other university collections. By the mid-1950s, the collection had expanded to accommodate a series of of terracottas, small bronzes, vessels, lamps, and smaller sculpture fragments. Taking over responsibility in 1956, Gerhard Kleiner organised significant and targeted acquisitions, partly drawing on discretionary teaching budgets. Most of the more than 1000 objects in the collection have no explicit focus on the African continent. However, several object groups from Alexandria, Egypt, are of importance to this project.

Contact:

Dr. Matthias Recke
Tel.: +49 69 798-32301
recke [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Seed and Fruit Reference Collection Africa
  • Wood Reference Collection Africa
  • Pollen Reference Collection Africa

The Archaeobotanical Reference Collection is part of the focus on “natural sciences” within the institute for archaeological sciences. It contains about 19.000 seeds, fruits, wood, pollen and other parts of modern plants. These recent objects are used as references to determine plant remnants found in sediments and archaeological sites and therefore to reconstruct diet, environment, climate and the usage of plants in the past. Details about all collection items are recorded in Access and Excel databases.

Katharina Neumann’s reference collection of wood and fruits/seeds poses the basis for the collection with relation to Africa. During her dissertation at the University of Cologne she collected material in Sudan and Egypt. As part of the Collaborative Research Center Cultural Development and History of Language in the Natural Area of the West African Savannah, collecting increased and was mainly moved to the region of west africa. Additionally, a pollen collection has been set up at the Collaborative Research Center to further analytical work with pollen. In addition to these efforts, material from other collections has been acquired, as well as obtained from herbarium items.

Contact:

Dr. Alexa Höhn
Tel.: +49 69 798-32089
a.hoehn [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Astrid Stobbe
Tel.: +49 69 798-32109
stobbe [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • No object groups available

The comic archive of the Institute of Juvenile Book Research comprises more than 70,000 media items. Research in the archive is possible via the UB’s search catalogue, where most items can be found simply with data from the title. Apart from a few precursors to the comic, the collection consists mainly of German-language comics from the end of the Second World War onwards. Many stories, particularly those from the 1950s and 1960s but in some cases also right up to the present day, contain pictorial traditions and motifs marked by exoticism, clearly originating from a colonial pictorial practice. In the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany, comic book print runs numbered hundreds of thousands of copies, and so the comics serve as a mirror of society’s conceptions, especially in relation to the African continent.

Contact:

Dr. Felix Giesa
Tel.: +49 69 798-33008
giesa [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Ethnographic Collection
  • Objects from the Expedition “Abyssinia/Ethiopia I”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Ethiopia II”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Ethiopia III”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Little Africa”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Congo-Kasai”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Kordofan”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Libyan Desert”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Libyan Desert”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Nubian Desert”
  • Objects from the Expedition “East Fezzan”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Red Sea”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Sahara Atlas”
  • Objects from the Expedition “South Africa”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Tripoli/Fezzan”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Western Sudan”
  • Objects from the Expedition “Central Sudan”

The Frobenius Institute is an independent research institution that contains several collectionsis and is linked to the Goethe University. The institute is named after its founder Leo Frobenius (1873 – 1938), who from 1912 onwards, together with collaborators and draughtsmen, carried out expeditions worldwide dedicated to rock art research, including to northern Africa and southern Africa. The approx. 8,600 rock art copies made during these expeditions are kept at the Institute today and represent the oldest and most extensive collection of this kind in the world. Their special significance lies, among other things, in the fact that many of the rock art sites have been destroyed or are no longer accessible.

In addition, the Institute has an Ethnographic Pictorial Archive comprising approximately 40,000 illustrations, paintings and drawings from all over the world, with a focus on the African continent. The archive’s inventory documents material culture, art and ritual life, among other things. In addition, the Institute has a Photographic Archive of approximately 60,000 photographs, most of which were taken in Africa during research trips and expeditions between 1904 and the 1980s.

The Institute also has an Ethnographic Collection of approximately 6,000 objects. While the collection also includes objects from South America and countries in the Pacific region, the focus is on about 5,300 objects from African everyday culture. These have been collected over the years, primarily during research trips by various academics, and expanded through donations.

The Ethnographic Pictorial Archive, Photo Archive and Rock Art Archive are fully digitised and can be searched on the Frobenius Institute website. The Ethnographic Collection can be visited by appointment.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Holger Jebens (Ethnographic Collection)
Tel.: +49 69 798-33048
jebens [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Richard Kuba (Rock Art Archive, Ethnographic Pictorial Archive, Photo Archive)
Tel.: +49 69 798-33056
kuba [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Peter Steigerwald (Photo Archive)
Tel.: +49 69 798-33056
p.steigerwald [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • No object groups available.

The Geoscientific Collections were established for teaching purposes at the same time as Goethe University was founded. They originally consisted of holdings from the Senckenberg Institute. Supporting material for publications and dissertations as well as gifts and acquisitions were added to the collections, which grew particularly quickly from the 1960s onwards. Later, when the geological-paleontological institute in Marburg and the geological teaching collection in Gießen closed, their holdings augmented the university collections still further.

As with every collection of rocks and fossils, the objects are unique since they are specific to their time and place of origin. Also, the archaeological sites are often no longer accessible. This makes the objects valuable as testimonies of chemical, physical and biological processes in different places on earth throughout its entire history.

We know that large parts of the collections originated on the African continent. However, due in part to the size and diversity of the collections, it has not been possible to produce a systematic record of their content. We are therefore unable to provide more precise information on specific holdings at this time.

Contact:

Sascha Staubach
Tel.: +49 69 798-40207
staubach [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Frederik Kirst
Tel.: +49 69 798-40199
f.kirst [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Images from the African Continent within the Colonial Image Collection
  • Written Material on Africa in the Colonial Library

The Colonial History Collections of the University Library contain written material and photographic images that are related to German colonial history and date back to the German Colonial Society (DKG), founded in 1887. The collection includes the Colonial Library, which contains about 15,000 monographs and 15,000 periodical volumes, many of which were published for DKG propaganda. After the Second World War they were handed over to the then City and University Library. The collection also includes the Colonial Image Archive, comprising more than 50,000 images, which includes the DKG’s glass plate / lantern slide inventory as well as later additions from private collections. The colonial gaze is prominent in many of these images.

The Colonial Image Archive as well as large parts of the Colonial Library are digitally accessible in the Visual Library of the University Library. The Colonial Library is also part of the University Library Catalogue.

Contact:

Dr. Aïsha Othman
Tel.: +49 69 798-39246
a.othman [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Christina Sokol
Tel.: +49 69 798-28247
c.sokol [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Alfred Jungraithmayr Legacy
  • August Klingenheben Legacy
  • Franz Rottland Legacy
  • Heinz Sölken Legacy
  • Oswin Köhler Legacy
  • Otto Rößler Legacy
  • R.M.R. Hall Legacy
  • Werner Vycichl Legacy
  • Herrmann Jungraithmayr Pre-mortem Legacy

The Oswin Köhler Archive (OKA) preserves and makes accessible academic legacies in the field of African Studies. It was founded in 2000 when the academic legacy of Oswin Köhler was donated to the Institute of African Studies. It serves as a research and documentation platform for the history of African Studies in Germany. The Oswin Köhler Archive contains the complete academic legacy of Oswin Köhler as well as parts of the academic legacies of other scholars of African languages.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Rainer Voßen
Tel.: +49 69 798-28261
vossen [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Gertrud Boden
Tel.: +49 69 798-28263
boden [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • No object groups available

The “Picturing History Atlas” collection in the department of history includes some 2500 albums of collectible cards, alongside national histories and school textbooks. The albums date from between the 19th and 21st century, but experienced particular popularity as a mass medium between the period of the German Empire up until the early years of the Federal Republic. During the first century of brand advertisement, these free giveaways by the consumer goods industry served as a form of popular education about the world which reproduced colonial and racial ideologies, as well as notions about history, nature, technology and homeland. In this respect, the albums are relevant for the project “Object groups from Africa in the Goethe University collections”. Even though the scrapbooks were not created on the African continent, they often contain photographs or drawings from or depicting Africa. These images are clearly defined by colonialism or the post-colonial era, providing insights into the evolution of German ideas about the African continent.

A large part of the collection originates from the private collection of the antiquarian Hartmut Köberich, which remains intact as an independent collection with a focus onare advertising scrapbooks from German-speaking countries. Here, the collection can claim to be fully representative. The entire collection “Picturing History Atlas” is registered in a database, that can be used in the collection room. A large-scale research database with online access is in preparation.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Jussen
Tel.: +49 69 798-32427
jussen [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Judith Blume
Tel.: +49 69 798-39197
j.blume [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Sound Carriers with Recordings from Africa

The Africa Collection of the University Library consists of a variety of objects related to the African continent. Its history dates back to the beginning of the 18th century with the legacy of Job Ludolf and the so-called “Oriental-African collection” of the City Library with a first focus of Ethiopia. In 1914, the former City Library became part of the newly-founded Goethe University as the City and University Library. From 1964 to 2015, the acquisition of literature from African countries south of the Sahara was funded by DFG Special Collection Area 6.31. Today, the collection is embedded in the Specialized Information Service African Studies (FID Afrikastudien). Subjects of the collection include, among others, Language and Literature, History, Geography, as well as Arts and Culture.

Print publications are not included in this project, therefore, only the audio-visual media of the collection are listed as an object group here. All publications can be found in the African Studies Library or via the University Library catalogue.

Dr. Aïsha Othman
Special Collection Africa
Tel.: +49 69 798-39246
a.othman [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de
slg-afrika [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Anne Schumann-Douosson
Tel.: +49 69 798-39276
a.schumann [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Handwritten Manuscripts Donated by Eduard Rüppell
  • Group of Several Individual Manuscripts

The Collection of Manuscripts and Incunabula contains manuscripts from various regions and historical periods as well as legacies and papers from the 16th to the 20th century, often with particular relevance to Frankfurt. It also includes a collection of autographs and a large number of incunabula and postincunabula in Frankfurt. Many of the manuscripts are accessible online in the Digital Collections of the University Library.

The holdings of the Manuscripts Collection date back to the Frankfurt City Council Library, which was founded in 1484. Over the years, the collection has grown through numerous bequests, the disbanding of Frankfurt’s monasteries due to secularisation, donations and acquisitions, including the legacies of scholars, writers and artists from the 16th to the 20th century, as well as over 2700 incunabula, including a complete Gutenberg Bible from the Leonhardstift in Frankfurt.

Particularly significant in the context of this project are the manuscripts acquired by Eduard Rüppell between 1831 and 1834 in what was then Abyssinia. A number of manuscripts in the collection deriving from Ethiopia are also listed here as an object group. This however is not a particularly coherent object group, composed rather of individual items with largely uncertain provenance.

Contact:

Dr. Bernhard Tönnies
Tel.: +49 69 798-39236
b.toennies [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Rashida Mansour
Tel.: +49 69 798-39250
ls-handschriften [at] ub.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • Teaching Collection of African Stone Tools and Objects of Everyday Life

The teaching collection of the Department for Prehistory and Early History of Europe and Africa at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences was established in 1963/64 and remained unchanged for a long time. It grew considerably with the contribution of a private collection, comprising mainly African finds, in 2008 and the purchase of modern replicas in 2009. Today the collection consists of approx. 7,500 finds from all prehistoric periods of human history. The objects date from approx. 2.5 million years ago until the first century A.D. The modern replicas in the collection are from the 20th and 21st centuries.

One main focus of the collection is the African Stone Age, including hand axes dating back several thousands of years and stone arrowheads from the Sahara of the Holocene Era. The collection also contains replicas of metal objects and ceramics from the early Metal Ages. All items are regularly used for teaching purposes and are stored at the IG-Farben-Haus on Campus Westend, where they can be viewed by prior appointment.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Sonja Magnavita
Tel.: +49 69 798-32118
magnavita [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Prof. Dr. Peter Breunig
Tel.: +49 69 798-32094
breunig [at] em.uni-frankfurt.de

Further information and resources:

Available object groups:

  • To be added

More information coming soon.

Available object groups:

  • No object groups available

More information coming soon.