1968 June 7 - present
In 1960, plans for a new Man in Africa hall under the direction of Colin Turnball are mentioned as a part of a 1959 exhibition expansion program (1, 1960/61, p. 25). The new hall, originally called Man in Africa, would replace the old Hall of African Ethnology and opened on June 7, 1968 in the space previously used for the Hall of Oil Geology, which closed on August 16, 1965 (1, 1967/68, p. 22; 3, 1972, p. 127; 5, 1964/65, p. 2-3).
In preparation for the new hall, Colin Turnbull worked with Henry Gardiner from the Department of Preparation and Shirley Blancke from the Department of Anthropology to design layouts for the hall’s sections. Turnbull also corresponded and consulted with other museums for information and materials including Musée de l’Homme (Paris), Musée de l’Afrique Centrale (Brussels), British Museum (London), Coryndon Museum (Nairobi), Rhodes Livingstone Institute (South Rhodesia), Khartoum Museum (Sudan), Kampala Museum (Uganda), and Fort Jesus Museum (Mobasa, Kenya), Smithsonian, University Museum (Philadelphia), Museum of Primitive Art (New York), the Brooklyn Museum, Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto) (5, 1962/63, 11-12).
Contributors to the hall included Alf Svendsen, sculptor, who created six life-size pygmy figures; and Stephen Searles, sculptor, who created a sample figure for 11 full-size costume mannequins. George Peterson, Preparation Supervisor, joined Colin Turnbull to collect plant life in Uganda for the displays in hall (5, 1964/65, p. 2-3, 8).
Construction began on the Hall of Man in Africa in November 1966 when Turnbull returned from the field. The hall was to focus less on the display of artifacts and more on “the ways in which people live and think, of patterns of organization. Systems of authority, law, and the concept of justice, family organization and domestic life, economic technology and structural organization, religious belief and practice, are some of the subjects to be treated...Also to be treated is the diffusion of various aspects of African social organization and belief, particularly in the New World. (5, 1966/67, p. 12-13).”
The religious, political, economic, and domestic aspects of life are illustrated with artifacts, including sculpted masks, religious icons, and tools for farming, fishing, and iron-making. Dioramas depict scenes which include the Berbers of the desert in North Africa, the Mbuti in Central Africa, and the Pokot people in East Africa. In a corridor at the end of the hall are artifacts of the great river valley civilizations of the Niger, Nile, Zambezi, and Congo. The hall features an extensive collection of African musical instruments, including the lyre, zither, flute, trumpet, oboe, bells, horns, and drums. It also showcases examples of ceremonial costumes, from the masses of banana fronds covering a Barawa “Dodo dancer” of Nigeria to the elaborate skin mask and symbolic painted leopard spots worn by the initiator of Bira boys of the Congo into manhood (2). Recordings of traditional music, most of which were recorded by Colin Turnbull, play continuously in the hall (7).
The sections of the hall are color-coded to represent four different types of African environments: Desert, Forest, Grasslands, and River Valley. (6, 1967/8, p. 4). Several cases were designed to resemble East African round houses to give the hall a village-like effect (8).
There is documentation for minor revisions in the hall in 1973-1974 and 1994-1995, the latter of which included a new map and introductory section, both under the direction of the curator of African ethnology, Enid Schildkrout (5, 1973/74, p. 8; 5, 1994/95)
This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.
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