Special collection Africa South of the Sahara: Image Collection of the German Colonial Society
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Image Collection of the German Colonial Society

BananenThe largest complete, and historically important, collection of the Africana Collection is the Colonial Library. During the second half of the 19th century numerous societies arose that concerned themselves with caring for German emigrants, and spreading of colonial ideas. The colonial library consists of the libraries of several colonial societies. The most important was the "German Colonial Society" (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft, DKG) founded in 1887. For their propaganda activities its members collected not only books (ca. 15 000) and journals, but also more than 50 000 photographs, which were used to illustrate their publicity lectures in Germany.

Already, in the 1880s lectures were sometimes accompanied by privately owned glass slides belonging to the guest speaker. In 1891, this induced the Society to form their own image collection beginning, at first, with about 100 large format black and white slides. Bequests from members and friends of the society as well as the transfer of originals or duplicates from the, now largely destroyed, official, commercial, and private collections rapidly increased the stock. By 1900, there were more than 1000 glass plates.

After the first world war, existing collections were deliberately copied for the DKG and added to their stock. Due to National Socialist enforcement, the society was integrated, together with its collections, organs, and members, with the German Reichskolonialbund, dissolved in 1943.

Originalmaterial BildsammlungWith the co operation of geography professor Uwe Ulrich Jäschke of the University of Applied Sciences, Dresden, and additional funding from the German Research Foundation, the stocks of the image archive of the German Colonial Society were microfilmed for long term preservation and safety, digitised for comfortable use and indexed. We were given further support, e.g. by storage of the existing data in a database and the acquisition of a sufficiently large computing unit, by the Marga and Kurt-Möllgaard Foundation. The image archive is freely available over the Internet.
» https://sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/kolonialesbildarchiv

The total breadth of colonial period is exposed by region and content. This makes the collection unique. There are just as many images of landscape and vegetation, agriculture, animals and hunting, villages and towns as well as commerce and traffic, as those presenting peoples and cultures. Disinfection baths in animal husbandry, street scenes of women at work planting coffee have, rather, a documentary character. Pictures of the hunt reflect rather more curiosity in, and fascination with, strangers. The collection is also always concerned with annexation, domination, and self assurance of the asserted superiority of one's own culture. The material of the German Colonial Society is meant to show the most positive picture of the colonies and colonial rule, thus, the brutal side of colonial rule is hardly shown. In spite of all this, the collection of pictures offers invaluable visual source material about historical events, the pictures in the heads of the contemporary people and the situation in the regions described.

English language search masks, and a thesaurus, enable research in the picture collection from anywhere in the world. The thesaurus has been realised by means of a GNARP Project.

In the meantime, about 15 000 image units from the Sam Cohen Library in Swakopmund/Namibia have been included in the database and are being indexed.


  • Uwe Ulrich Jäschke (Hrsg.): 15 Jahre "Koloniales Bildarchiv" an der Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main. - Dresden, 2004 (Dresdner Kartographische Schriften)
  • Uwe Ulrich Jäschke: Kulturgutsicherung oder wie der Bildbestand der Sam Cohen Bibliothek in Swakopmund verfilmt wird, in: Namibia Magazin 13 (2002), H. 2, S.26.

Other historical literature online:

Individual works from the Colonial Library (Signatures S 17, Sq 17, Sf 17) were digitised during the course of the preparation for interlibrary loans and are freely available as a collection on the net.
» Edocs » Kolonialbibliothek (Colonial Library)

Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon / Pub. by Heinrich Schnee. - Leipzig : Quelle & Meyer 1920. - 3 Vols. The lexicon, with all pictures and cards, has been completely digitised. This invaluable contemporary source - published in 1914 and 1920 respectively by the Governor of German East Africa - is full-text searchable and the index words are linked by a hypertext link. Prof Dr. Uwe U. Jäschke, Dresden, worked out the digital publication conceptually and technically.
» Website of the picture archive » German Colonial Lexicon 1920

All questions concerning the picture archive should be directed to

Christina Sokol
Tel: 069/ 798-39247

Zurück zum Seitenanfang
zuletzt geändert am 26. September 2022


Dr. Aïsha Othman
Spezialsammlung Afrika
Tel: 069/ 798-39246

Lesesaal Spezialsammlungen
Mo. - Fr. 10.30 - 16.30 Uhr
Tel.: 069/ 798-39398


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