Navigation auf


Ethnographic Museum

Business Idea? 5 Questions on ‘the Object Set’ from Noanamá, Colombia

7 October 2022 to 14 April 2024


In 1968, the Ethnographic Museum ordered a Maku collection from Borys Malkin, a Polish anthropologist, entomologist and professional collector known as the “big boss” of ethnographics from South America. The Maku groups, however, did not take kindly to collectors. Malkin feared that he would be met with a rain of arrows. He preferred to offer the Ethnographic Museum a Noanamá collection from Colombia: “100 pieces covering the entire range of material culture, including pottery”.

The museum was persuaded to buy this in 1969; Malkin already had two sets of objects – the “main set” was destined for what is now the Museum der Kulturen in Basel. Between 1968 and 1972, a dozen other museums in Europe and North America acquired from Malkin larger object sets from the relatively small Noanamá society, which he advertised as complete. How should such a collecting practice be classified? What motivated museums to acquire such collections? Why did Noanamá provide Malkin with more than 2,200 objects? How did they negotiate as business partners? What kind of society do these collections represent? And what do Noanamá have to say today about these business relationships?

Objects Malkin Collection
Noanamá objects from the collection that Borys Malkin sold to the UZH Ethnological Museum. Photo: Kathrin Leuenberger, 2022.


Workspace Series – 5 Questions on the Collections

What kind of museum does the future need? We turn to the collections and their creators with long-lasting and new questions, for example: "How and why did the objects come into our museum?" We think of the museum as an open workspace, a space for collaborative exploration and research. Along with an exhibition series, we offer insights into our work. The exhibition "Business idea?" followed "Honeymoon?" as the second opening in this series. In March 2023, "Looted Goods?" has opened and in July 2023 "Mask Dances?". In November 2023, the final workspace exhibition "Workpieces?" has completed the series.

Weiterführende Informationen

Business Idea?

360° documentation "Business Idea?"

More about 360° documentation "Business Idea?"

Welcome to the virtual exhibtion!


Dr. Maike Powroznik, curator

Seed Grant Project 2022

More about Seed Grant Project 2022

The research project on the collection of Borys Malkin at the Ethnographic Museum UZH is funded by the Participatory Science Academy of UZH and ETH Zurich with a Seed Grant. Seed Grants enable the development or implementation of Citizen Science projects.