In their cabinet of artefacts and curiosities, the Francke Foundations present 92 objects from southeastern India. The archive also contains 318 palm leaf manuscripts in the South Indian languages Tamil and Telugu. All these objects reached Halle via the Danish-English-Halle Mission in the 18th century. There are also 52 ethnographic objects from Borneo that two missionaries donated to the Francke Foundations in the 1840s. These are presented in a separate cabinet of artefacts and curiosities.
From 1706 Halle theologians worked in the Danish trading place Tranquebar, today Tharangambadi in the Indian state Tamil Nadu. In the course of time, their field of work also expanded beyond the English-controlled areas of southeastern India. A total of 56 missionaries worked in India between 1706 and 1845, the end of Halle's mission. In the course of the transfer of knowledge from India to Halle, these missionaries also sent objects for the cabinet of artefacts and curiosities there, both ethnological and everyday objects as well as religious objects from the Hindu context, which were presented in the
»India showcase«, as well as natural history objects, which are located in the natural history showcases (minerals, conchylia, animal preparations). From the correspondence between India and Halle, which is extensively stored in the Foundation's own mission archive and is accessible for researchers and broader public, we know how most of the objects came to the missionaries, namely through purchase or donation. Some objects, e.g. animal specimens or palm leaf manuscripts, were made at the instigation of the missionaries or by themselves (animal specimens). Some objects and their fate were even documented in the »Hallesche Berichte«, the first Protestant Mission-Journal, published by the Francke Foundations from 1710. Since this journal not only reported on the mission, but also represents a unique source of information on the culture and society as well as flora and fauna of Southeast India in the 18th century, all issues can be viewed today on the website of the Francke Foundations.
After their re-establishment in 1991, the Francke Foundations have again established connections to Tamil Nadu and above all to the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC), which was founded in 1919 out of mission as an independent church. This led to a diverse cooperation in research and exhibition projects. For example, the Francke Foundations, in partnership with TELC and other partners in Germany, set up a museum on the history of intercultural dialogue between India and Europe in the home of the first Halle missionary in Tranquebar, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, which was opened in 2017. This museum project will continue to be supported by the Foundations and their partners.
These collections are set in the specific colonial context of the 18th century. However, this is not the same as the imperial colonialism of the (late) 19th and early 20th centuries. This type of collection from the 18th century is not dealt with in more detail in the guide to dealing with collection material from colonial contexts of the Deutscher Museumsbund. Here consists
Need for research and discussion. The Francke Foundations plan to play an active role in this emerging field.