Project Announcement: German Ethnographic Expeditions to the Kimberley

Congratulations to Associate Professor Martin Porr on the announcement of this three year project that aims to assess unpublished archival materials from the Northwest Kimberley that were conducted by the Institut für Kulturmorphol­ogie (now Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt am Main) in 1938 and 1939 and the then Museum für Völkerkunde (Munich) in 1954 and 1955.

Dr Eve Raabe, Dr Kim Doohan and Leah Umbagai (from left to right) are discussing paintings from the Frobenius expedition to the Northwest Kimberley in 1938/1939 in the Museum der Weltkulturen in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Photo: Martin Porr)


This project asks:

  • What is the value and significance of historical ethnographic collections today?

  • Which roles can they play in the current intellectual landscape?

  • How can their potential for Traditional Owners, museums and the wider public be assessed and developed?

Listen to Dr Martin Porr talk about the project on the ABC here:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/kimberley/programs/breakfast/german-photos/12867694


The project will foremost draw on unpublished archival materials in Germany (photos, drawings, sketches, repro­ductions of rock art images, personal notebooks), published books and papers and the direct input from members of the Wanjina Wunggurr community. As such, the project is a case study of critical research history and anthropo­logical knowledge production. It is highly significant for the Aboriginal communities that are involved in this endeavour. The project is also designed to productively contribute to key contentious issues for ethno­graphic or anthropological archives, museums and collections today.

Dr Michaela Appel, Leah Umbagai and Dr Martin Porr (from left to right) assessing archival materials in the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich, Germany (Photo: Kim Doohan)


The project aims to contribute to the discussions about current challenges by concentrating on the analysis of a corpus of relevant materials from the Kimberley that are held in German institutions, summarise and digitise these, initi­ate the reconstruc­tion of the circumstances and intellectual contexts of their creation and assess their significance and future potentials in a deeply collaborative fashion. In this context, it will be of crucial importance to under­stand the various intellectual influences that have impacted on the expeditions and its participants.

Leonie Cheinmora (left) and Leah Umbagai are inspecting objects in the archive of the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich, Germany (Photo: Martin Porr)


The project is funded by the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG) and will be jointly coordinated by Dr Richard Kuba at the Frobenius Institute at the University of Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and Associate Professor Martin Porr (University of Western Australia). The project will be conducted in collaboration with the Wunambal Gaambera, Dambimangari, and Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporations, the Museum der Weltkulturen (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) and the Museum Fünf Kontinente (Munich, Germany). The duration of the project is three years.

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Mailing Address:

Centre for Rock Art, Research + Management,

School of Social Sciences,

M257, 32 Stirling Highway, Perth WA 6009

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