Stories of People, Things and Places

in Japanisches Palais

dunkler Raum mit angeleuchteten Objekten in Vitrinen


The collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde comprises 100,000 objects from all parts of the world, including sculptures, jewellery, crockery and weapons. It is at home in the Japanisches Palais (Japanese Palace) on the Elbe River, only a few steps away from the Golden Rider, the equestrian statue of August the Strong. Today, the uniqueness of many of the objects goes hand in hand with the necessary questions regarding their origin. Who created them and why? How did they come to Dresden? Were these objects given as gifts, sold or even taken from their original owners during the colonial era?

Restitution of Benin objects

On 29 April 2021, the Saxon Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Barbara Klepsch and the Director of the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig, Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, took part in the discussion round of the Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters on the restitution of Benin objects. The political signal for the return of the looted objects was given. Monika Grütters, Minister of State for Culture, said:

"We are facing up to the historical and moral responsibility of bringing Germany's colonial past to light and coming to terms with it. [...] I am glad and grateful that we have been able to agree on the common goal of developing a coordinated stance in Germany and reaching a common understanding with the Nigerian side. In addition to the greatest possible transparency, we are above all striving for substantial restitution. In this way, we would like to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of the people who were robbed of their cultural treasures during the period of colonialism. We are planning the first returns in the course of 2022."

The GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig and also the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden hold objects from the former Kingdom of Benin. The restitution of looted objects is not only an ethical and moral duty, but also the beginning of a transnational exchange to tell the effects of colonialism to this day as part of a common history.

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Heidelberger Statement

In accordance with the Annual Conference of Directors of Ethnographic Museums in the German speaking context 2019 the following official statement was published in Heidelberg on 6 May 2019.

Heidelberg Statement

Press Statement Benin Dialogue Group 2019

Founded in Vienna in 2010 the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) brings together state and regional representatives of cultural politics, museum representatives and representatives of the Royal Court of Benin City/Nigeria and European curators for African collections from Vienna, Berlin, Dresden/Leipzig, London, Leiden, Stockholm, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Oxford and Cambridge. Those European collections house important objects and private collections from historic Benin Kingdom in current day Nigeria. Informally speaking, all members of the BDG jointly aim to create a friendly and trustful environment. Some of the objectives proclaimed from the beginning are opening the collections, the digitalisation of collections and academic exchange. A digital inventory of Benin objects being kept in the museums of the world will be put up in order to maintain cooperative projects and exchange, but also to facilitate resititution of objects to Benin City where they will be added to a newly planned museal centre in 2021/22.

Press Statement  Benin Dialogue Group 2019

The Damascus Room

A jewel from the historic Old City of Damascus is being kept in Dresden - and could contribute to changing our perception of the Orient and Syria. The Damascus Room consists of a wooden wall and ceiling paneling that is elaborately embellished with metal leafed and painted decoration and once adorned the reception room for guests in a noble residence in Damascus. 

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History of the exhibition

The museum traces its origins to the Kunstkammer founded by August I, Elector of Saxony, in 1560. The nearly 100,000 objects held by the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden come from the most diverse regions of the five continents of the world. 

About the history of the collection

Figur zielt mit einem Gewehr
© SKD, Foto: Mo Zaboli

From our Online Collection

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