"Conquest is a scientific issue" (Edoardo Zavattari, biologist, 1883-1972). For a history of acquisitions and collections from the colonies in the Italian museums.
Beatrice Falcucci (University of Florence)
Paper short abstract:
The aim of this paper is to investigate the different modalities of acquisition of artefacts from the Italian colonies (Eritrea, Somalia, Libya and Ethiopia) from 1880 to 1943, taking into account anthropological artefacts, zoological and botanical specimens, commodities science collections.
Paper long abstract:
My PhD project intends to highlight the importance that the colonial collections, took on in creating the Italian Empire and shaping the colonial and race consciousness of the conquerors. Not only anthropological artefacts, but also zoological and botanical specimens, and commodities science collections, contributed in creating a "colonial mindset" for the Italian people, displaying the richness of the colonies. In fact, both Liberal and Fascist Italy invested a great amount of resources in collecting and exhibiting artefacts and specimens from the colonies, displayed in museums (around 60 all over the country still exhibit colonial collections nowadays) and temporary exhibitions and fairs. Exhibiting was intended as a way to get to know, and in this way truly posses, those far away lands. Collections were usually catalogued and displayed by their conditions of acquisition: for example the collections of weapons, like the Ethiopian bows and arrows, collected by various soldiers during the first and the second Abyssinian campaign, were hosted (and still are) in the War Museum of Rovereto, a small city close to Trento and the border with Austria, in a museum celebrating the First World War. The "colonial adventure" was, in fact, presented as the perfect coronation of the military making of the country, in a process started with the wars of Risorgimento and continued during WWI. Religious and spiritual objects, on the contrary, were usually collected by missionaries and displayed in museum such as the Ethiopian Museum Guglielmo Massaia of Frascati, named so after the cardinal very active in promoting the Italian (and catholic) expansion in Africa.
Reconnecting African art and artefacts