Frequently Asked Questions

Content of the Portal

In this portal you will find collection items from colonial contexts held by German cultural heritage institutions. The collections originate both from territories that were under formal colonial rule and from areas in which informal colonial structures prevailed or that were under the informal influence of colonial powers. This definition corresponds with Cases 1 and 2 in the Guidelines of the German Museums Association on the Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts.  

The portal attests to the location of collection items from colonial contexts that were taken from the countries of origin or that are of special significance for the societies of origin. The focus here is on museum collections, but the holdings of other cultural institutions will also be digitally published in the portal if they meet these criteria. 

The portal contains collection items from all over the world that found their way into German cultural heritage institutions via global transfer and trade.

You will find a great deal of data about the Benin Bronzes in the portal. A comprehensive data bank concerning the Benin Bronzes held by museums and collections in Germany can be accessed under The platform includes a data bank about Benin Bronzes worldwide.

For ethical reasons the portal does not show images of human remains or information about human remains held by German cultural heritage institutions. The aim is to avoid once again classifying human mortal remains as “scientific objects” and hence dehumanising them. You can find the results of a survey on human remains from colonial contexts in museum and university collections in Germany at 

The portal likewise does not include collection items that served colonisation, for instance, technical equipment for transportation as well as weapons and uniforms. Collection items that reflect colonial relationships or that anchored colonialism in the public perception, for example in advertising or in the visual and performing arts, will not be published in the portal either (Case group 3 of the Guidelines of the German Museums Association on the Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts).



On DDBpro you will find detailed information about the process of supplying data to the subportal “Collections from colonial contexts”:

The portal pools information from the data banks and documentation systems of various cultural heritage institutions. Not every institution supplies information for all the search filters, which means that information pertaining to these filters cannot be retrieved in such cases.

To avoid variations in spellings and terminology, only categories that are linked to a controlled vocabulary are displayed in the search filters. This ensures a stable identification of the categories. The data are thus comparable and interlinked.

Since not all information on the collection items is linked to controlled vocabulary, and in some cases the data records are missing entirely, there may be more collection items in the portal than shown by the search filter results. You can use the search window to search for any term, so you will usually get more hits there than you would by using the search filters. 

The following vocabulary will be used for the various filters:

It shows works by court artists of the Kingdom of Benin, which found their way into the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne between 1899 and 1967. On 15 December 2022, the City of Cologne transferred ownership of these works to Nigeria. Three of the works were restituted the same day. The remainder will be exhibited at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum until they are returned to Nigeria; some of them will stay in Cologne on loan for ten years.

Collections and Restitution

The cultural heritage institutions are responsible for the selection and content of the data they provide on collection items from colonial contexts. If you would like to add to the data or have noticed something that needs correcting, please contact the institution that supplied the data. At regular intervals, the German Digital Library publishes up-to-date data provided by the cultural heritage institutions.

You can contact the institution holding the item or collection in question via the contact form linked to all item pages. The German Digital Library does not answer any content-related questions about the collection items.

Decisions about restitution are taken by the institution holding the collection item in question and its sponsoring body. The German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts at the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States functions as the coordinating body for enquiries of all kinds in connection with restitution claims for individual items. 

The Establishment of the Portal

The basis for establishing the portal was provided by the documents detailing “Erste Eckpunkte zum Umgang mit Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten” (Framework Principles for Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts) and the “3-road strategy”. Since the activation of a prototype in 2021, the portal has been further developed in close collaboration with 25 German cultural heritage institutions and experts from the countries of origin and was published digitally in 2024. The portal forms one aspect of a transparent dialogue on how to treat the collection items in question. 

  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg – Universitätsarchiv and Uniseum
  • Applied Botany Collection (ABC) of Universität Hamburg
  • BASA-Museum (Bonner Amerikas-Sammlung) of Universität Bonn
  • Ethnografische Studiensammlung of Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
  • Ethnologisches Museum and Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SPK)
  • Linden-Museum in Stuttgart
  • Medizinhistorisches Museum of the Charité Hospital in Berlin
  • Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK) in Hamburg
  • Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich
  • Museum für Naturkunde Berlin – Leibniz Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung
  • Museum Wiesbaden – Hessisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Natur
  • Nordfriesland Museum. Nissenhaus
  • The institutions involved in the PAESE collaborative research project: Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, Roemer- und Pelizaeusmuseum Hildesheim, Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, Ethnologische Sammlung of Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • Philipps-Universität Marburg
  • Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt in Cologne
  • Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen im Verbund der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden
  • Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen (SuUB)
  • Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg
  • Übersee Museum in Bremen
  • Universität Bayreuth – Institut für Afrikastudien

The 3-road strategy entails providing central access to collections from colonial contexts that have already been published digitally (road 1), undertaking the basic digitisation and digital publication of still unpublished collections from colonial contexts in a central data repository according to agreed standards (road 2) and developing standards devised in collaboration with countries and societies of origin as well as the diaspora in Germany for the basic digitisation and digital publication of collections from colonial contexts (road 3). 

With respect to content the portal follows the Guidelines of the German Museums Association on the Care of Collections from Colonial Contexts. These guidelines define cases of colonial contexts: Case 1 comprises collections from territories under formal colonial rule. Case 2 comprises collections from areas that were not under formal colonial rule. Case 3 comprises collections that were used to colonise territories or that reflect colonial relationships. The portal contains collection items from Cases 1 and 2. 

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