Author:Axel Steinmann (Museum für Völkerkunde)
Paper short abstract:
Museums have many objects lacking documentation and are thus often stored away and neglected. This paper aims to “reconstruct” the forgotten history of such a group of ignored collectibles providing them with a “fictive biography” and in this way giving them new significance(s).
Paper long abstract:
One day, a nice collection of "enchanting" and "fascinating" ceramics from Egypt caught my eye in the museum's storage room. An elongated, narrow-necked container looked like a classical Etruscan perfume flask, a jug covered with palmettes seemed to imitate a Wedgewood style jar. Card indexes and inventory books provided only basic information, such as collectors names, registration numbers, and acquisition dates, with superficial descriptions added to them. "Assiout", "Kenneh", and "Assouan" are alternatively mentioned as their places of origin. All items have been collected in the second half of the 19th century by European gentleman travelers, explorers and scientists. Though so-called Asyut earthenware has been on show in the late 19th century International World Exhibitions and has been acquired even by the most important museums in the Western hemisphere there is no serious information which makes it possible to trace their history from their place(s) of production and/or acquisition to the museums' storage-rooms. By retracing the individual and/or collective moods and memories these objects held for 19th century travel-writers on their tour through Egypt, this paper aims to lift the curtain on this hitherto neglected group of collectibles and to provide them with a "fictive biography".