As a multi-disciplinary institution, the Übersee Museum has natural history collections, ethnographic collections, collections on Bremen's trade history, and an extensive collection of historical photographs, which in some cases also document collection contexts and are also closely linked to the colonial collection contexts. Furthermore, the museum has a library with extensive colonial literature and a file archive on the history of the house, which support the research of the collection contexts.
The disclosure of collection contexts (documentation of collectors, geographic metadata, and provenance characteristics) is an important task and challenge for the interdisciplinary collection areas with their sometimes different technical requirements for collection documentation. It requires the cross-asset networking of collection information for the requirements of promising provenance research and the creation of transparency, which is an important concern for the Übersee-Museum, which is involved and exchanges information in professional networks in this regard.
Since 2012, ethnographic and trade collections as well as the Historical Picture Archive have been recorded in the Collections Management System TMS (initially TMS 2012, after the last further development in version 2018). The 83,130 ethnographic objects are fully digitally recorded in the database with varying levels of indexing. In the Department of Trade Studies, nearly 4,900 of about 30,000 objects are recorded in TMS 2018. For the Historical Image Archive, around 34,000 objects are recorded in the database, which is approximately two-thirds of the total holdings. Of the circa 1 million natural history objects/organisms, 251,424 objects are digitally recorded, of which 2,755 (herbarium specimens) have standardized digital images. Additional natural history objects are to be digitally recorded as part of a project funding.
Networking and open use of collection information is the core of the Übersee-Museum's digital strategy.