Collection and exhibition policies have not changed simply as a result of the recent broad public discussions around the theft of cultural property. Yet, what does it mean for the work of museums today? The Museum der Kulturen Basel (MKB) addresses the challenges and opportunities under these new conditions in the exhibition “Thirst for Knowledge Meets Collecting Mania”.
Ivory netsuke were once popular collector’s items, bearing evidence to the high degree of Japanese craftsmanship where they were used as toggles to attach purses and small boxes to the sashes of the pocketless kimonos. Bird of Paradise plumages not only testify to the times when they used to be coveted goods in New Guinea’s colonial economy, they actually still serve as male adornment in ceremonies and feasts to this day. A trophy from Indonesia tells of the earlier fascination among Europeans for cultural practices such as headhunting.
In the new exhibition “Thirst for Knowledge Meets Collecting Mania”, the Museum der Kulturen Basel unfolds the diversity of cultures across the world, and, once again, invites visitors to change their perspective to help understand why, for instance, entire nations were so enthralled by ivory objects, or why the Zuni in the United States want to stop non-initiates from using kokko masks?