Difficult heritage

A workshop exhibition March 16, 2021 until May 8, 2022

What does the Linden Museum have to do with German colonialism? Which Württemberg actors were involved in colonialism? How present was colonialism in the everyday world of Württemberg? And how does it continue to have an effect today?

The exhibition highlights the museum’s colonial connections between 1882, the year the Württemberg Association for Commercial Geography was founded as the museum’s sponsor, and about 1940, and includes effects up to the present.

An important role was played by Karl Graf von Linden. He was chairman of the sponsoring association and left his mark on the museum during the colonial period. Accordingly, the museum was named after him in 1911.

In addition, other personalities are presented who are part of stories that took place between the museum, Württemberg and the colonies. Likewise, it asks about those about whom we know little because of colonial conditions, but who were nonetheless instrumental in building the collections.

In a further step, the colonialist association system is considered, to which the Trägerverein also belongs. Associations shaped social life and served as multipliers of colonial ideologies. Events such as colonial conferences, exhibitions and so-called “Völkerschauen” or objects of everyday culture show how deeply rooted colonialism was also in Stuttgart. The question is asked what continuities have emerged up to the present day.

Another thematic focus is on violence, taking as an example the so-called “Boxer Rebellion” in China (1900/01). Hundreds of Württemberg soldiers volunteered for this war, from which the Linden Museum owns looted objects. Württembergers who took part in colonial expeditions and wars were honored with commemorative plaques and monuments, some of which still exist today. How should this be handled?

The exhibition incorporates provenance research at the museum. In addition, the Linden Museum specially commissioned a study on Württemberg and colonialism. Viewing the country’s history in the context of colonialism and highlighting the many cross-connections between institutions, people, and events is a new approach. Although some issues have been worked on before, scientific research and debate is just beginning on many issues.

Critical distance and multi-perspectivity are central in order to avoid a one-sided or even nostalgic retelling of colonial history from the perspective of Württemberg actors. The fact that the debate is strongly in motion is also visible in the exhibition. Based on the idea of the workshop, the visitors are invited to answer questions, to record their own thoughts or criticism and to contribute or question their knowledge. The visitors can adopt different points of view and perspectives, empty spaces and connecting lines are revealed and the contents are put up for discussion.

In the context of the exhibition, experts and activists with a connection to Stuttgart, the Linden Museum and expertise around the topics of colonialism, postcolonialism, decolonization and antiracism have come together in an accompanying group to discuss the special exhibition “Difficult Heritage”.

Part of this debate is now presented in the workshop area of the exhibition and is intended to invite all visitors to engage with the continuities of colonialism, the resulting patterns of behavior and privilege, and the possibilities for healing this open wound.

The accompanying group hopes that the thoughts, interventions and critiques initiated will find their way into the transformation process of the Linden Museum and the reappraisal of colonial heritage and will be further developed and realized in a sustainable manner.

Audio Guide “Critical Change of Perspective”

The museum’s legacy from a Black German perspective: Linda Addae’s audio guide draws attention to how colonialism and its continuities still significantly affect the realities of life for BIPoC (Black Indigenous People of Color). The perception of BIPoC evokes other interpretations of the exhibition’s theme, pointing to the contemporary implications of a supposedly closed history. The photographs are walks of thought that deal interpretatively with stations of the exhibition and describe certain aspects from an affectively affected point of view.

Media library: Recorded events

Podcast: China Ticker – Curator Markus Himmelsbach on the so-called “Boxer War” (22.02.2022)

A booklet has been published for the exhibition, which you can order in our online store [LINK auf Shop].

With the kind support of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe

Ever since humans discovered and settled the island worlds in the Pacific thousands of years ago, there have been many connections between the widely scattered land areas in the largest sea on earth.


Videos zur Ausstellung

Von kolonialen Spuren in Stuttgart bis zu kultureller Aneignung: Elf Videos zu Veranstaltungen und Themen der Ausstellung

Externer Link: Youtube Playlist

In cooperation with:
Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, China Center Tübingen, HFT Stuttgart

With kind support:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Karl Schlecht Stiftung, Tübinger Vereinigung für Volkskunde e.V., Universitätsbund Tübingen e. V., Stiftung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, Netzwerk transformierender Lehre in Baden-Württemberg, Verein Freunde Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart