PhD research: Objects as agents: A historical-anthropological study of the Hutereau collection in the Royal Museum for Central Africa Tervuren (1911-1913)

Date
October 2015 to October 2019
Category
Keywords
ethnographic
museum
Belgian Congo
early-colonial history
Institutions
Royal Museum for Central Africa Tervuren
Research fields
History and Archaeology
Social Sciences

This project wants to investigate an ethnographic collection that was assembled by the 1911-1913 expedition to the Uele and Ubangi regions in the northeast of Congo, led by Armand Hutereau. Approximately 8.000 objects were collected for the Museum for Belgian Congo in Tervuren and they have remained there – largely unstudied – until present-day in the storage rooms. A study of the multiple nexuses of social interactions in which the ethnographic objects are embedded is necessary, to see what these dialectical relationships (re)produced, altered or fabricated.

Objects are studied as mediators for studying early-colonial history. They evoke social relations and therefore need to be treated as if they were persons. Taking a historical-anthropological approach we can focus on the scientific paradigms of the Hutereau expedition, the methods of collection and the personal aspirations of the expedition members. The renegotiation of the identity of these objects in the present-day museum is necessary, as they have been approached in an all too univocal manner in the past. This creates different layers and a rich resource for an interpretive study.