American Museum of Natural History. Hall of African Ethnology.

Show/Hide All Variant Names

Exist Dates

1910 - 1962

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened 1910 and closed approximately 1962. Located on Section 8, Floor 2 from 1910 to 1930 and Section 8, Floor 3 from 1931 to approximately 1962. The Hall of African Ethnology was the first hall covering African anthropological subjects.

The Hall of African Ethnology was the first hall covering African anthropological subjects. It was the iteration of an African Ethnology Hall opened on the second floor, west wing in 1910. The hall was part of a new wing, which included other new halls: Collections from the Philippine Islands, Indians of the Southwest, and the South Sea Islands halls. All were created using collections that had never been displayed to the public (1, 1910 p. 16). The Congolese collections displayed in the Collections from Africa were a gift presented to the Museum in 1907 by King Leopold II of Belgium (1, 1929, p. 14).

While the hall was primarily devoted to African ethnology, from 1910-1930 it also exhibited African mammals, which were awaiting their own hall. The mammal displays included “Caliph,” a famous hippopotamus that had lived in the Central Park Zoo, elephants, and a wall of mounted animal heads collected by Edgar Beecher Bronson (2, 1911, p. 41; 2, 1914, p. 55; 2, 1928, p.52). The installations in African Ethnology were geographical, with the north, south, central, east, and west areas of the hall corresponding to those areas on the African continent. The hall also included a decorative frieze by Albert Operti and created under the direction of Robert Lowie, window transparencies, and reproduction cave paintings. Artifacts in the hall included ironworks, textiles, masks, ivories, agricultural tools, and reproductions of cave paintings. Cultures represented included the Hottentots (Khoikhoi) and Bushmen (San people) (4, 1909, p.1; 3, 1911 p. 41; 2, 1928, p. 52-53).

Between 1930 and 1931, the collection was moved and reinstalled on the third floor, west wing, and dedicated to Kings Leopold and Albert of Belgium (1, 1930, p. 4). The hall’s description in the 1931 General Guide is very similar to those of previous years with the exception of African mammals, which are not described with the ethnological collections after 1930 (2, 1931, p. 15). In 1939, reproductions of South African rock pictures by South African artist M.K. McGuffie, were installed in the hall (3, 1939, p. 168).

Between 1956 and 1958, the hall underwent minor revisions by Philip Gifford, scientific assistant in the Department of Anthropology, and Robert L. Carneiro, curator in the Department of Anthropology. Revisions included an updated and relabeled Congo pottery exhibit, revised material from Dutch Guiana, and the addition of wood-carvings from West Africa (4, 1956/57, p. 4; 4, 1957/58, p. 6-7).

By 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 African Ethnology Hall appears in the 1962 General Guide in its previous position on Floor 3, Section 8 (2, 1962, p. 10). By 1964, the General Guide map does not include the African Ethnology Hall (2, 1964, p. 10). The new Hall of Man in Africa opened on June 7, 1968 on Floor 2, Section 1 in the space previously used for the Hall of Oil Geology (1, 1967/68, p. 22; 3, 1972, p. 127).

This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.

Sources

    (1)  American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1910-1967/68.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide to [the Exhibition Halls of] the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1911-1964.
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. American Museum of Natural History: an Introduction. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1972.
    (4) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, Department of Anthropology. 1909-1957/58.

Chronology

  • 1910: Collections from Africa (Hall of African Ethnology) opens in Section 8, Floor 2. African mammals, which were intended to eventually have their own hall, are exhibited with African ethnological objects at this time.
  • 1930 - 1931: The African ethnology collections are moved to Section 8, Floor 3.
  • 1939: Reproductions of South African rock pictures by South African artist M.K. McGuffie installed. 
  • 1956 - 1958: Minor revisions and relabeling performed by Philip Gifford and Robert L. Carneiro.
  • 1960: Plans for new Man in Africa Hall begin.
  • 1962: Last mention of The Hall of the Peoples of Africa (Hall of African Ethnology) in the Museum’s General Guides.
  • 1968 June 7: Man in Africa (Hall of African Peoples) opens.

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Section 8, Floor 2 (1910-1930); Section 8, Floor 3 (1931-1964) . Additional location information: Floor 2, Section 8 (West Wing). Floor 3, Section 8 (West Wing/Hall Number 3-D)

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Albert I, King of the Belgians, 1875-1934External link
Hall dedicated in his honor after renovation in 1930s (1, 1930, p. 40).
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Anthropology.
Related department
American Museum of Natural History. Hall of African Peoples.
Hall of African Peoples replaced Hall of African Ethnology
Bronson, Edgar Beecher, 1856-1917External link
Wall of animal heads collected by him presented by his heirs (2, 1928, p. 52).
Carneiro, Robert L. (Robert Leonard) 1927-
Revised some exhibits in hall, 1956-1958 (4, 1956/57, 1957/58)
Gifford, Philip Collins 1919-2000
Revised exhibit in hall (1, 1971, p. 16)
Léopold II, King of the Belgians, 1835-1909External link
Hall dedicated in his honor after renovation in 1930s (1, 1930, p. 40)
McGuffie, M.K.
Artist for South African rock pictures created for hall (3, 1939, p. 165). Possibly Martha K. McGuffie: http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID:siris_sil_546067

Related Resources

subjectOf
American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports. 
1910 (page 16); 1913 (page 27); 1918 (page 85); 1921 (page 24); 1928 (page 92); 1929 (page 14, 123); 1930 (page 12, 40); 1931 (page 47)
subjectOf
American Museum of Natural History annual reports, 1902-2001.
Preparation and Installation: June 30, 1909; December 31, 1909 / Anthropology: December 31, 1909, 1952-1953; 1954-1955; 1956-1957; 1957-1958
subjectOf
American Musuem of Natural History. General Guides, 1911-1962.
1911 (page 35, 41); 1913 (page 51); 1914 (page 55); 1916 (page 57); 1918 (page 46); 1919 (page 48); 1921 (page 48); 1922 (page 48); 1923 (page 48); 1926 (page 38); 1927 (page 38); 1928 (page 52); 1930 (page 52); 1931 (Table of Contents, page 102); 1932 (Table of Contents, page 102); 1933 (Table of Contents, page 104); 1934 (Table of Contents, page 106); 1935 (Table of Contents, page 106); 1936 (Table of Contents, page 106); 1939 (page 18, 165); 1943 (page 18, 171); 1945 (page 18, 171); 1947 (page 18, 171); 1949 (page 18, 171); 1953 (Floor plans, page 24, 203); 1956 (page 26, 204); 1958 (page 26, 204); 1962 (page 13, 44)
subjectOf
American Museum of Natural History, Photographs of African people and culture, circa 1904-1950. PPC .A381
Date of resource: circa 1904-1950; 73 Photographs, loose and mounted, including 14 photographic postcards, accompanied by handwritten notes on several photographs and separate sheets of paper; in Collection Organization: "Three sculptures are represented: a Benin bronze head, one of a pair on view in the AMNH Hall of African Peoples (Folder 9)…"; Identifier: PPC .A381
subjectOf
American Museum of Natural History press releases, 1933-1990s.
“American Museum Appoints African Ethnologist to Staff.” October 12, 1959;
American Museum of Natural History Special Collections photographic drawers
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [Black and white photo prints of exhibition on view]
subjectOf
Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 December 10


Export

Content negotiation supports the following types: text/html, application/xml, application/tei+xml, application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml, application/rdf+xml, application/json, text/turtle

Return to top

amnhc_4000122http://data.library.amnh.org/archives-authorities/org:Organizationosm