‘We Don’t Want Another White Guy to Tell our Story!’ Reflections on a Collaborative Exhibition Project about the ‘Francis La Flesche Collection’ at the Humboldt

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Ilja Labischinski
Barbara McKillip-Erixson
Wynema Morris
Elisabeth Seyerl-Langkamp


Collaboration with creator communities has become a new paradigm for ethnological museums. In this article, we discuss the possibilities and limits of cooperation with stakeholders from creator communities based on our experience of the last five years, during which we created an exhibition together with the Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) for the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. In 1894, the Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde commissioned Francis La Flesche, who is today considered the first Indigenous ethnologist, to assemble a collection of his own culture, the Umoⁿhoⁿ. ‘We don’t want another white guy to tell our story!’, Wynema Morris, Professor at the NICC, made clear when we told her about our plans to do an exhibition together with the college. The historical collection became the starting point for a collaborative project that was developed from 2017 to 2022. The experiences of racism, violence and loss of land still influence the living conditions of the Umoⁿhoⁿ community today. In this context, the Berlin collection is of particular importance, because it bears witness to the resistance against colonization. It offers the Umoⁿhoⁿ the opportunity to reconnect with their ancestors and present their own history to a German public. The project also made clear how deeply inscribed colonial contexts are in the collections of ethnological museums.

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