From the beginning, A history of the Ethnography Collection

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Our summer exhibition is on display in UCL Anthropology Foyer till the end of September.
Entitled From the beginning – A history of the Ethnography Collection, this exhibition shines a light on our recent discovery on the history of the collection and, for the first time shows printings from our lantern slides collection.

The Ethnography Collection is made of 1500 objects and over 2000 fieldwork and teaching photographies. The collection was created in the middle of the 20th century, right after the opening of the Department of Anthropology at UCL (1945). It was originally conceived as a teaching collection and it is still used in undergraduate and graduate programmes. The department uses this collection to engage with source communities and it is open to wider audiences through exhibitions and loans.

The collection is geographically and technically diverse and offers a huge range of objects and contexts of creation and use. Objects come from Africa (46%), Oceania (17%), America (15%), Asia (1%) and Europe (1%). The objects are divided into 21 categories, as varied as Knives, Pottery, Basketry, Cloth, Musical instruments, Ritual objects, Combs, Domestic objects, Spoons, etc. Raw materials represent main natural varieties existing on these five continents.

- Prof. Daryll Forde during a field trip in Wales probably at the end of the 1920's. UCL Ethnography Collections.

– Prof. Daryll Forde during
a field trip in Wales probably
at the end of the 1920’s.
UCL Ethnography Collections.

It was thanks to the first director of the Anthropology Department, Professor Daryll Forde, that the collection was created. We have information about the origin of approximately a third of the objects of the collection. About 300 objects were donated by the Wellcome Collection and 200 items were submitted by individuals or other institutions such as museums or churches. On the other hand,we don’t have any information of origins for about 1000 objects. This documentation project regarding the history of the collection is still a work in progress and we would be grateful if you could take the time to provide us with any information you have. Today, the collection is still expanding thanks to recent donations.