Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum - Kulturen der Welt

Artist ProgrammeArtist Meets Archive
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The Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt in Cologne is the only municipal ethnological museum in North Rhine-Westphalia. The museum holds one of the ten biggest and most important ethnographic collections in Germany. The collections encompass more than 65,000 objects from Oceania, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The Historical Photographic Archive in the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt encompasses approximately 100,000 photographic objects from the early days of photography into the 1980s and virtually all regions of the Earth. Shots of colonial civil servants, missionaries, travelling researchers and adventurers can be found here, alongside shots from photographic studios around the globe, picture postcards or entire photographers’ legacies.
The archive is a component of the Photographic Collection. Its founding dates back to 1899; the stocks have close temporal and spatial ties to the German empire’s colonial expansion. Photography played a considerable role in colonialism from the second half of the 19th century: it was used for colonial scientific research, for both official and personal documentation of colonial experience, it was employed for the purpose of fabricating and reinforcing stereotypes and, not least, it served to disseminate colonial attitudes and ideas. Furthermore, it remains a major component of colonial and post-colonial discourses.

Archives & Collections

Photography has a rich and varied history in the Cologne area. This is evidenced by the numerous photo collections in art museums and photographic archives, ranging from classical picture archives to private and corporate archives. In the Artist Meets Archive programme, the hidden treasures within these institutions are revived.
The collaboration between the archives and participating artists results in exhibition projects that are presented as part of the Photoszene Festival. Here, the archive becomes the site of an artistic debate and focuses on local photographic history as well as casting a global perspective on the medium of photography.