You are here: Home Reciprocal Provenance Research

Reciprocal Provenance Research

Reciprocal, interdisciplinary and transparent: provenance research with a restitutional perspective in a colonial context — on the appropriate handling of a collection of human remains using the Alexander Ecker Collection in Freiburg as an example


The joint project of the Arnold-Bergstraesser Institute Freiburg e.V. and the University of Freiburg focuses on approximately 120 human skulls that originate from the African continent and ar part of the Alexander Ecker Collection. The project team is working on questions of provenance and the handling of human remains in close cooperation with researchers of various disciplines from Africa. The project is funded by the German Lost Art Foundation.



The Alexander Ecker Collection


The collection was founded in 1857 by Alexander Ecker, an anatomist and anthropologist from Freiburg. It is composed of human skulls, bones, and casts that were acquired through donations, exchanges, and purchases. Since 2001, the Alexander Ecker Collection has been under the care of the University Archive and the Uniseum.



News and Events

Publication - Blog Joint Futures 13 - Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (23 October 2023)

Kokou Azamede & Andreas Mehler
Restitution als Chance zum Dialog zwischen „Zentrum" und „Peripherie"

On 26 and 27 April 2023, the final conference of the project took place in Freiburg, the first day on the premises of the ABI. Members of the scientific advisory board, which included scientists from the regions of origin, were also able to attend. The project has a pilot character and resulted in practical policy recommendations for dealing with human remains from colonial contexts. These policy recommendations were handed over to the Rector of the University of Freiburg, Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein, and the representative of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Dr. Margret Frenz, on the second day of the final conference. The recommendations for action are available in English, German und French.

The Dead are not in a Rush

Communicating science - this video attempts to artistically process research results from the project "Provenance Research with a Restitution Perspective".

This experiment in science communication is based on a 1.5-hour conversation between Prof. Wazi Apoh (University of Ghana) and Prof. Andreas Mehler (University of Freiburg). The text reflects the statements of the two experts in the form of film images and contains audiovisual excerpts from the discussions of the advisory board as well as material filmed with Prof. Albert Gouaffo (University of Dschang) at the Institute of Biological Anthropology at the University of Freiburg.

The voices of the two professors were re-enacted by two actors (Thomas Douglas for Andreas Mehler and Mbene Mbunga Mwambene for Wazi Apoh) and show some of the unexpected results of the research process in the exchange with the international advisory board.

Advisory Board member Prof. Albert Gouaffo from the University of Dschang in conversation with Prof. Andreas Mehler and Dr. Hoffmann-Ihde at the Freiburg Africa Talk „Freiburg und Kolonialismus: Reicht eine Ausstellung?“ on 18 October 2022.

Advisory Board member Prof. Kokou Azamede from the University of Lomé visiting Freiburg on 21 July 2022.




Prof. Dr. Dieter Speck

University Archive of the University of Freiburg

Tel.: +49 (0)761 / 203-3851