Digitization and publication of the
unpublished literary estate of Günther Tessmann at
the ethnological museum of the Hanseatic town of Lübeck
Participating researchers: Dr. Sabine Dinslage, Dr. Brigitte
The archives of the
ethnographic museum of the Hanseatic town of Lübeck hold the literary estate of the German traveller Günther Tessmann (1884-1969). Although he was not a trained anthropologist, he nevertheless may be
considered as one of the pioneers of ethnographic field research. The archival notes are ordered into twelve volumes documenting Tessmanns childhood and youth as well as his journeys taking him for many years to Africa and South America. A number of ethno-botanic and zoological
writings are equally enclosed, as well as his pioneering discussion of
cultural change phenomenon.
The collection of manuscripts, containing also numerous photographs,
drawings, small water colors, ticket cuts, souvenirs and other documents was labelled
by Günther Tessmann himself as "My life - diary in twelve volumes".
The notes shed light on his scientific-historical presuppositions, his motives
and hopes as well as about the successes and failures of his research
expeditions.Besides, they contain background information on Tessmann's research
strategies, his research ethos, his attitude towards the indigenous population
in Africa and Peru as well as to the cultural-historical importance of the ethnographic objects he collected.
At the center of the research work stands the access, comment and
publishing of Tessmann's life memories which up till now aren't available to the
general public. In order to guarantee easy access to as well as a long
term preservation of the documents they will be scanned and made available in
Particularly the self-reflexive field notes among Tessmann's documents
can be seen as important basis for the discussion of epistemological,
methodological as well as political questions. The research project therefore
aims at an essential contribution to the history of ethnology and anthropology
as well as to the colonial history and to the scientific perception of the
stranger in the early 20th century.
Moreover, the project intends to include the ethnic groups in the areas
where Tessmann has done research, namely the Baja, Bafia and Bubi in Cameroon.
Tessmann's ethnographic notes are important historical documents for the
history and culture of these groups.