Difficult Heritage


Linden-Museum und Wuerttemberg in the colonial period

A workshop exhibition

26 November 2020 – 30 May 2021

What does the Linden-Museum have to do with German colonialism? Which Württemberg protagonists were involved in colonialism? And how present was colonialism in the everyday world of Württemberg? These are the questions that a workshop exhibition on Württemberg colonial history, which can be seen from 26 November 2020 to 30 May 2021 at the Linden-Museum Stuttgart, aims to answer.


The focus is not so much on the effects of colonialism in the German colonies, but rather on how it manifested itself in the Linden-Museum and in Württemberg and continues to have an effect to this day. In this way, the museum takes responsibility for its own history and critically reflects on its colonial roots.

The exhibition shows the museum's colonial connections between 1882, the year of the founding of the Württemberg Association for Commercial Geography as the museum's sponsor, and around 1940, and includes effects up to the present day. Karl Graf von Linden played an important role. He was chairman of the supporting association and shaped the museum during the colonial period. Accordingly, the museum was named after him in 1911. In addition, other personalities are presented who are part of stories that took place between the museum, Württemberg and the colonies.

We also ask about those about whom we know little due to the colonial conditions, but who nevertheless played a decisive role in building up the collections. In a further step, the colonialist association system is examined, which also includes the supporting association. Associations shaped social life and served as multipliers of colonial ideologies. Events such as colonial conferences, exhibitions and so-called "Völkerschauen" or objects of everyday culture show how deeply rooted colonialism was, even in Stuttgart. The question is raised as to what continuities still exist today.

Another thematic focus deals with violence and highlights the so-called "Boxer War" in China (1900/01) as an example. Hundreds of Württemberg soldiers voluntarily went to this war, from which the Linden-Museum owns looted objects. Württembergers who took part in colonial expeditions and wars were honoured with commemorative plaques and monuments, some of which still exist today. How should this be dealt with?

Provenance research in the museum is incorporated into the exhibition. In addition, the Linden-Museum has commissioned a special study on Württemberg and colonialism. To look at the history of the state in the context of colonialism and to work out the many cross-connections between institutions, persons and events is a new approach. Even if some questions have been dealt with earlier, scientific research and debate is only just beginning on many issues. Critical distance and multiperspectivity are central to this, so that colonial history is not recounted one-sidedly or even nostalgically from the perspective of Württemberg actors.

The fact that the debate is in a state of great flux is also evident in the exhibition. Based on the idea of the workshop, visitors are invited to answer questions, record their own thoughts or criticism and contribute or question their knowledge. The visitors can take up different points of view and perspectives. Empty spaces and connecting lines are revealed and the contents are put up for discussion.

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