Transnational Custodianship of Cultural Heritage in the 21st Century

Mænd der spiller musik

4th Museum Day Celebration at Bishnubati, December 2017 - Photo: Boro Baski

Working Meeting 8-9 October 2018, followed by a Workshop on the Bodding Collection of Santali Cultural Heritage on 10-11 October 2018

Convenors – Associate Professor Peter B. Andersen, University of Copenhagen (Denmark); Professor Tone Bleie, University of Tromsø (Norway); Dr. Boro Baski, Head, Museum of Santal Culture, Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adibasi Trust, Birbhum (W. Bengal, India); Teaching Assistant Professor Elmar Renner, University of Copenhagen.


Working Meeting

During the colonial period collections of objects and manuscripts have been assembled and brought from Africa and Asia to Europe. A considerable number of collections, sub-collections, single artefacts and manuscripts are nowadays stored or on exhibition in private collections or public archives, museums and libraries in Europe and South Asia. Some of these collections have relevance for the collective identities of the people, often ethnic minorities, who constitute the original source communities and have rights of access and co-management, according to international treaties on cultural rights.

The specific contexts of the collection processes (e.g. acquisition, donation also involving power structures), later shifts in museum politics, technical and cultural aspects of storage, conservation and display deserve new scrutiny on a comparative basis. There are academic and political debates on returning specific collections and instances of collections being given back in parts or completely. There is much to be learned from such pioneer efforts. Digitalization opens new opportunities for virtual repatriation, but also raises a number of intricate intercultural, collaborative (education, training needs) and technical questions.

The working meeting invites contributors to share their perspectives on transnational custodianship of cultural heritage comprising manuscripts and objects collected on e.g. artistic, anthropological or historical purposes in Africa and Asia. Projects already involving (or planning to do so) dialogues or formalised cooperation (including co-management) with the people belonging to the source communities are particularly invited.

Back-to-Back Workshop: “Opening the Santal Bodding Collection to scholars and custodians from the Santali community”

The Bodding Collection managed by the National Library of Norway and the Museum of Cultural History, comprises both ethnographic and prehistoric objects and manuscripts. The manuscript and ethnographic sub-collections have recently been digitized and made globally accessible. Apart from that, physical access to the collections shall be provided to a new generation of  students and scholars, artists and museum managers from the Santal community and supported by grants and customised training on archival research methods.

The back-to-back workshop in Copenhagen will mainly address key competence building and training needs of young and senior scholars and museum custodians who (plan to)  use the collections in Oslo and particularly invites respective abstracts. One session will be devoted to the early modalities of getting the Bodding Collection included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MoW) Program.  Lead trainer will be retired Librarian Santhosh Soren who has extensive knowledge of the manuscript collections. A more detailed program will be announced in June.

Registration Fee which also covers lunches: 400-600 DKK
(Reduction possible for presenters).


The working meeting is organised in collaboration with the Scandinavian-Santal Heritage Initiative (SSINherit), which was established in 2014 prior to the "Bodding Symposium: Belief, Scholarship and Cultural Heritage: Paul Olav Bodding and the Making of a Scandinavian-Santal Legacy", held in Oslo 3-5 November 2015. (Conveners Øivind Fuglerud and Tone Bleie) and Danmission, Copenhagen (coordinated by Jørgen Nørgaard Poulsen).