1910 - 1962
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.
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