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Ethnographic Museum

Encountering – Retracing – Mapping. The Expedition Collections of Heinrich Harrer

Begegnung – Spur – Karte. Die Expeditions-Sammlungen von Heinrich Harrer

Stone tools and breastplates from New Guinea (1962); jaguar claw necklaces from Brazil (1966); a feather headdress by Wayana from Suriname (1966); a hundred wooden combs and as many cooking spoons by Saamaka Marron from Suriname (1966); a spirit house from Thailand, a fire fan from Japan or the good house spirit Ekeko from Bolivia (1968); a bundle of arrows from French Guyana (1969) – the expedition collections of Heinrich Harrer from the 1960s present themselves in this breadth of content, material and visuals.

And they raise questions: What significance do such historical collections have today and how do we perceive them? What possibilities are there for a contemporary scientific approach? What sections of the originator societies do they represent? What knowledge is stored in them? What conclusions can be drawn from research on the objects and their contextualization about the collector?

And finally: What opportunity does engaging with the objects offer with regard to dialog, to generating important contemporary themes, to the discovery and appreciation of people's worlds of imagination and action?

In the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the exhibition sets itself the task of exploring some of these questions. "Starting with the object", we explore stories of permanence and change, social interactions and intercultural encounters; we shed light on areas of tension in the run-up to and at the moment of collecting, but also in the history of collecting.

As a kind of open platform, we invite people to come together and search for clues, to participate in individual research, but also to critically reflect together at eye level on the task of today's ethnographic museums and on the role and value of their collections.

Trailer for the exhibition "Encountering – Retracing – Mapping. The Expedition Collections of Heinrich Harrer". (Video: Ginger Hobi, MELS UZH)

Heinrich Harrer gave his expedition collections from the 1960s to Zurich together with his Tibet collection in 1973. The current exhibition will be followed and supplemented by the exhibition "Mapping – Retracing – Encountering. The Tibet Collections of Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter".

360-degree documentation of the exhibition (click on the image to enter)