The small town of Tranquebar, nowadays known as Tharangambadi, was the starting point of the very first Lutheran Mission, initiated by the Danish-Halle Mission in India in the year 1706. More than 300 years ago, an intercultural dialogue thus came into being, continuously meaningful to this day. The history and presence of this dialogue got manifest in an international museum project, which reflects on the current discussion on origin and ownership of cultural heritage and assets. Prof. Müller-Bahlke, director of the Francke Foundations, Halle, is the initiator of the project. For its realisation, he won the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church in India as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony and the Leipzig Mission Work in Germany, as international project partners. During a 12-days journey through South India, at the end of January in 2018, Müller-Bahlke got a detailed insight into the exhibition, displayed in the Ziegenbalg House. Along with Jasmin Eppert, the German curator in Tharangambadi, and her Indian colleague Miss Joice Sharmila, Müller-Bahlke met the local partners, to share ideas on the future outlook and development of the museum – a pioneering trendsetter for international museum projects.
The history of the Danish-Halle Mission is as important for people in India, as it is for many Germans, even though looked at from different perspectives. The museum in Tharangambadi takes up this intercultural history and display it in five rooms, on two levels. Through information boards, visitors get insights into this meaningful history, which still is shaping our present times. One room shows the concept of education through conception, which was practiced at the Francke Foundations for girls and boys alike, where the missionaries eventually learnt their skills. Even nowadays, an outstanding number of schools can be recognised in and around Tharangambadi. Already in 2006, the English information boards have been produced in Halle in cooperation with Indian and Germany partners, facing the tercentenary of the Danish-Halle Mission and its festivities in India. An exhibition of photographs shows the restoration of the building, on the second floor. Out of ruin-like conditions, the building got restored in terms of traditional craftsmanship, intensely supervised by INTACH, Pondicherry, the Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage, a local organisation specialised in preservation and architectural conservation.
Implementing a cultural and educational programme in the Ziegenbalg House on a regular basis will be the next step. That includes printing workshops for school classes, guided heritage walks pathing through Tranquebar’s history for local people as well as for tourists and academic seminars in cooperation with Universities and Colleges. They can be based on the reading of digitized palm leave sources as they were handed over to the Museum by the director of the Francke Foundations, during his visit to South India. Furthermore, the museum project can be extended, including the adjacent historical buildings of the former mission compound in the concept, thus developing a culture and research campus of intercultural dialogue.
From the very beginning, the development of the museum was documentarily recorded by film cameras. Six short films thus screen the evolving project, the restoration as well as the daily work. Here you find the films and further information on the museum project.