Accepted paper:

'Regions Beyond': Missionary Connections and Collections (1907-1916)


Sarah Worden (National Museums Scotland)

Paper short abstract:

By linking the objects from the early 20th century Rev. Moon African collection to photographic and manuscript archives questions about how the objects were acquired, and in what circumstances, are addressed to improve understanding of historical cross-cultural interactions and connections.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will focus on the early 20th century collection made by Reverend James Moon, working in central Africa for the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (1907-1910 and 1913-1916). This is one of many historic Africa collections in the National Museums Scotland made by Scottish missionaries who lived and worked in Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection was included in a one-year collections project in 2016, which addressed questions about the field practices of Scottish missionaries in Africa and their position in institutional and informal networks that connected field and museum. The aim was to piece together, where possible, how objects were acquired, from whom, why, and in what circumstances, to improve understanding of historical cross-cultural interactions and connections. Many of the objects in the Moon collection were items worn as indicators of age grade, status, wealth and ethnic identity. Artefacts include brass and copper personal adornment, raffia woven skirts and belts with attachments of animal skin pouches, bones, horns, shells, beads and amulets. Collected during a period of change from locally sourced and traded materials to imported European clothing, these objects are important material evidence of local patronage and demand. Connecting these objects with personal correspondence, missionary archival material and a fascinating collection of related contemporary photography this paper aims to better understand the significance of such collections in networks of trade and power, and the construction and maintenance of cultural identity.

panel Art11
Reconnecting African art and artefacts