|CENTRAL AFRICAN COLLECTIONS AT OTHER MUSEUMS - A SURVEY
The section provides a summary of museums, other than RAMM, with Central African
ethnography collections. This information has been compiled using the following
sources: Wright (2002, Museums Yearbook), Schumann (1986, MEG survey) Idiens
(undated, Perth catalogue), Pole (2000, South West Museums survey), Starkey (1998,
North East Museums survey), Kwasnik (1994, Scottish museums survey), Proctor (1994,
Dundee museums catalogue), Pennie (1991, African Assortment: African Art in
Museums in England and Scotland). Each museum listed as having Central African
objects, or fifty or more unspecified African objects, was contacted in 2006.
Some museums were able to send further information in the form of catalogue records,
summaries and photographs - these have now been placed on file at RAMM. The project
has enabled the main UK collections and collectors to be identified and the RAMM
collection to be evaluated in relation to these.
Gillon (1984:301) notes that scholarly knowledge of Kuba art 'is based on the three great
collections, those of Sheppard in 1892, Frobenius in 1905 and Torday in 1908. Some of
the art objects collected by Sheppard are now at Hampton, Virginia. The Frobenius
collection is in the Berlin Museum fur Volkerkunde and in other German museums. The
objects brought home by Torday are in the Museum of Mankind [now the British
Museum Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas], London'. William Sheppard
was a black American missionary, Leo Frobenius was a 'German Africanist and
ethnographer' (ibid: 186), and Emil Torday conducted ethnographic research in 1904,
compiling a comprehensive report (ibid: 299-300). Illustrated books such as Lehuard
(1980) and surveys such as Biebuyck (1985, 1986) list European and American museums
with Central African collections. Biebuyck also surveys archival resources relating to the
Internationally, there are a great many museums with large Congo collections. The
museums of many major European cities hold large Congo collections. The Royal
Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, founded by King Leopold II of the
Belgians, houses the largest collection in Europe and perhaps the world. The two main
collections in the United States of America are the American Museum of Natural History
(AMNH) in New York, and the Museum of African Art (NMAfA), part of the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Also of special interest is Roger Casement's
collection at the National Museum of Ireland, as he knew of Dennett and is a major figure
in Congo history.
The largest UK collections are at the British Museum in London, the Pitt Rivers Museum
(PRM) in Oxford, the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and
Anthropology (CUMAA), and the World Museum, Liverpool. Other major ethnographic
collections also have Central African material - those in Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham,
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, the Hancock Museum in Newcastle, the Horniman
Museum in London and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington, Kent. RAMM ranks
highly with these, largely due to the part which the Dennett collection can play in
illuminating the history and culture of Central Africa.
The only other museum found to have Dennett material is the Pitt Rivers in Oxford,
which houses two trophy ivory tusks presented by Dennett to the Folklore Society. The
PRM collection is also of interest because it holds the collection of Victorian traveller
Mary Kingsley, a close associate of Dennett's. Of particular interest is Mavungu, the
power figure or 'nail fetish' which she collected, for which Dennett wrote the display
label. The Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) holds Dennett's collection of glass
Other than these major collections, many non-specialist museums have collections of
between a few and a few hundred Central African pieces. These are usually
miscellaneous items donated by local people. Reading Museum's collection is of interest,
because it has pieces from Forfeitt's collection, other parts of which are housed at
Cambridge and the Horniman. Within the South West of England, Bristol Museum and
Art Gallery has the most important Central African collection, with objects and related
correspondence from two major missionary collectors.
MAJOR COLLECTIONS IN EUROPE
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND, DUBLIN
The NMI holds at least two hundred Central African items. Roger Casement's Congo
collection consists of about fifty objects, including a power-figure (459/39) obtained from
a Cabinda trader, Senor Oliveira, in 1902. The database entry for this object reads:
'"Pemba"- a wooden figurine with a necklet made of various emblems; canoe, dog, slave,
musical instruments etc. The use the fetish was put to was probably to drive away
sickness (supposed to be due to witches) and to exorcise the witches'. His 'list of
curiosities' which he wished to lend the museum includes 'An African Idol of Fetiche will
all his attributes. This figure has been in "actual use" in the ChiLoango Country - north of
the Congo mouth. It has all its "attributes" with it - caps and medicines and is a unique
exemplar of African religious beliefs" (ibid.). The entire collection includes other objects
also represented in the RAMM collection such as shields, weapons, 'women's fringes',
fibre cloths and a 'native guitar'. Of particular interest from a historical point of view are a
'rubber basket - for bringing in indiarubber' and 'pair of Hand-cuffs - used by sentries and
forest guards'. In a poignant letter in which he offers the collection on loan to the
museum, Casement says that 'the loan would probably be many years - for I should not
claim them until such time as I come home, for good, to settle in Ireland' (letter in NMI
archives, 28 May, 1904). This never happened, as he was executed in 1916, on the
grounds of high treason for his Irish nationalism.
ROYAL MUSEUM FOR CENTRAL AFRICA, TERVUREN, BELGIUM
This museum holds the most comprehensive Central African collections in Belgium,
probably in Europe and even in the world. The museum's website notes that 'the
Ethnography Section has a collection of around 180,000 objects, most of which have
been collected on site by colonial administrators, missionaries and scientists since 1885'
and that 'the figurative sculptures (masks, statues, etc.) are the most famous objects, but
the collection also features important series of weapons, cups, combs and various other
types of artifacts' and that 'the collection of Central Africa (Democratic Republic of the
Congo) is by far the richest collection in the Ethnography Section'. Its collections are not
listed on its website but the Central African artifacts
probably number in the tens of thousands.
MAJOR COLLECTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, NEW YORK
The African ethnographic collection dates back to 1869, the year when the museum was
founded. The museums's website states that 'the earliest
collections were donated by or bought from missionaries; some material was obtained
from European museums, auction houses, or received as gifts. At the end of the
nineteenth century many explorers and travelers brought objects from Africa that were
acquired by the Museum. The African collection is extensive in terms of geographic
coverage. It includes North Africa, West Africa, and Madagascar, although its greatest
concentration of material is from central and southern Africa. The entire collection with
over 37,000 objects is available on-line'. In addition to objects there are photographs,
images of the original catalogues, and in the case of the Lang Collection from North East
Congo, field notes on-line.
Enid Schildkrout, a former curator AMNH, notes that its three main central African
collections are that made by the Belgian Government, the Frederick Starr collection and
the Lang expedition collection (personal communication, 2006). Hochschild explains that
‘Frederick Starr, an oddball University of Chicago anthropologist who was a big believer
in the inferiority of “primitive” peoples, revived one of Leopold’s innumerable medals
and a full-year, all-expenses-paid tour of the Congo. In return he produced a series of
fifteen enthusiastic articles in the Chicago Daily Tribune under the heading “Truth about
the Congo Free State”, later reprinted as a book...' (2000: 244-245). A proportion of the
AMNH collections were a gift from King Leopold II of the Belgians himself –: ‘Leopold
also gave more than three thousand Congo artifacts to the American Museum of Natural
History, knowing that J.P. Morgan [a notorious racist and supporter of Leopold's Congo
regime] was on its board’ (ibid: 244). For further information about these collections, see
Schildkrout and Keim (1998) and Schildkrout's article in Vogel (1988).
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, WASHINGTON D.C.
This museum holds one of the USA's largest Central African collections, although the
website does not state how many objects it holds. The extensive on-line catalogue, with
illustrations and excellent captions, is available via http://www.nmafa.si.edu/.
MAJOR COLLECTIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
THE BRITISH MUSEUM (BM) DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS (LONDON)
According to Schumann (1986), the BM holds about 75,000 African artifacts. The British
Museum has no on-line database, but the in-house database can be searched at the Centre
for Anthropology. The database lists over 800 artifacts from the Republic of the Congo
and almost 7,600 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The most significant source of Central African material is Emil Torday, with over 2,300
records. Hottott and Ridyard are also significant sources. The only large Central African
collection in the photographic archives is also that of Torday, which numbers about 2,500
images. There are one or two thousand further Central African images.
The British Museum has a large number of Central African artifacts of all types on
display in its Africa gallery.
THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY (CUMAA)
The CUMAA database is fully searchable on-line via the museum's website. The database contains over 1,600 records for
anthropology objects from Central Africa, most of which are catalogued as Zaire and/or
Congo. The largest collection (just under 280 objects) was made by missionary Reverend
Lawson Forfeitt before 1908. Some of these were donated via Dr. Jamieson B. Hurry.
There are also collections from the Reverend Kenred Smith (88 objects) and Emil Torday
(21 objects). All of these collections are varied, including clothing and personal
adornments, religious figures and charms, containers and musical instruments, as well as
weapons. The photographic archives contain almost 450 images from Congo and/or
THE PITT RIVERS MUSEUM (PRM). OXFORD
The PRM's collections contain 60,000 African artifacts, but it is difficult to tell from the on-line catalogue exactly how many of these are from Central Africa. Important collectors include Emil Torday, Robert Hottott and Mary Kingsley.
The PRM collections contain the only examples of Dennett material yet to be found
outside RAMM. These are two carved elephant tusks which Dennett presented to the
Folklore Society in 1895, and which were later transferred to the PRM via CUMAA.
These objects are trophies of Dennett's role as an ivory trader as well as a folklorist – one
has a dated inscription with his name (1965.1.47) and the other is covered with classic
Loango carvings (1965.1.46). Blier (1998: 211-213) discusses early carved tusks as well
as later 'tourist' examples like these. The PRM's Mary Kingsley collection consists of
about 50 'West African' objects, including those from the Congo region, donated to the
Museum by her brother on her death in 1900. The item most relevant to RAMM's
collections is Mavungu, her Kongo power figure or 'nail fetish' (1900.39.70), which is on
display at the PRM and is illustrated and discussed by Dennett (1906: frontispiece, 93-
95). Dennett also wrote the display label for this artifact.
The PRM's Central African photographic archives are extensive, but they contain no
Dennett material. The paper archives contain two letters from Mary Kingsley, as well as
material relating to her Mavungu figure and lists of the Folklore Society's collections,
including its Dennett material (1965.1.1-47, 1965.3.1-224). The museum's website
includes an on-line exhibition called 'Congo Journey', which 'makes available photographs and
documents from the Pitt Rivers Museum's Hottot Collection, providing an on-line
catalogue to the objects displayed in an exhibition of the same name held at the Pitt
Rivers Museum in 2004'. The French explorer Robert Hottot's Expedition to Central
Africa took place in 1908-9.
LIVERPOOL - WORLD MUSEUM LIVERPOOL
According to Schumann (1986), Liverpool holds 8,000 artifacts from sub-Saharan Africa.
A substantial number of these are from Central Africa, many of which are currently on
display in the World Cultures gallery. There are no artifacts from Dennett, but curator
Zachary Kingdon notes that Dennett is mentioned in a letter in the museum's archives
(126.96.36.199), addressed to Ridyard, Liverpool's main collector of African artifacts, from
Shawcross, a trader in the Congo (personal communication 2006). Shawcross discusses
sending two 'fetishes' to Ridyard, one of which is named Mungurka. He mentions
Dennett, 'a great student of folk-lore amongst these natives', saying that he wanted to
photograph Mungurka 'for reproduction in his new book'. Further research will be
required to find out whether an object in Liverpool's collection matches an object in one
of Dennett's books.
The museum's website includes very informative pages about the Central African collections and about Congo history and religion.
THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE (RAI)
The RAI photographic archives contain the only Dennett material so far identified outside
of RAMM and the PRM. These consist of two boxes of glass lantern slides, each
containing about fifty slides, one pertaining to the Congo and the other to Nigeria. There
is little further information accompanying the slides, but the RAI archives do contain
Dennett's membership forms.
OTHER CENTRAL AFRICAN COLLECTIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
ABERDEEN - MARISCHAL MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), this museum holds some 1,000 African artifacts, but
most of these are Nigerian. No further information has been obtained.
BELFAST - ULSTER MUSEUM
Schumann (1986) indicates that Belfast houses almost 500 Sub-Saharan African items.
Recent correspondence, however, indicates that very little of this is Central African and
most of it is weaponry and shields.
BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), Birmingham's collections contain up to 200 objects from
Sub-Saharan Africa. Curator Chris Wingfield explains that 'there are relatively few
objects from the Congo, and those that there are were collected by Baptist missionary
George Grenfell' (personal communication, 2006). A temporary exhibition of the Grenfell
collection is on display in Birmingham in 2006. This collection is of particular interest
because Grenfell's name appears as a witness in documents relating to Casement's
investigations into the Congo Free State atrocities, for example those held in the Anti-
Slavery Society archives, Rhodes House, University of Oxford.
BOLTON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), Bolton holds some 500 African artifacts. A telephone
conversation with the curator confirmed that the Central African collections include items
from Ridyard, also Liverpool's main collector of African artifacts, and a loom for making
BOURNEMOUTH - THE RUSSELL-COTES ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
According to the Pole (2000), Bournemouth holds just under 30 Central African artifacts.
No further information has been obtained.
BRIGHTON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), most of Brighton’s circa 2,500 African artifacts are from West Africa. Although the Museum’s website includes pictures of a selection of objects, there is no facility to search the full database.
No further information has been obtained.
BRISTOL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Pole (2000) notes that this museum has over 900 Central African artifacts, including
everyday items, textiles and religious artifacts, as well as colonial objects such as whips.
Curator Sue Giles says notes that 'the majority of the collections came from two
missionaries, Reverends Kenred Smith and Charles Pugh. Smith was working there
before and perhaps after 1915 (the collection was sold in two lots, one about 1915 and
one 1940s), Pugh was probably there in the 1920s and 1930s. There are letters from
Smith with some information' (personal communication, 2006). Kenred Smith is also one
of CUMAA'S main collectors of Central African material.
CHELTENHAM ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), Cheltenham holds over 170 African items, mostly from
West Africa. A 2006 database search found only four Congo items.
DUNDEE ART GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS
According to Schumann (1986), Dundee houses about 500 items from Nigeria and the
Congo. Further information about is available in their 'Cultures of the World' catalogue
EDINBURGH - NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF SCOTLAND
According to Kwaznik (1994), NMS has about 1,200 Central African artifacts. The
museum will undertake further research into its Central Africa collections during 2006.
GLASGOW MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY, KELVINGROVE
Curator Patricia Allan explains that 'there are about 800 objects from what we have
classified as Central Africa. Our main donors are W.B. Scott, a ship's engineer who
donated a collection of 244 items from Kassai and the Upper Congo in 1910 and Thomas
Livingstone who, in 1877, donated about 60 objects collected by his father the Scottish
Missionary David Livingstone. We do not have any objects donated by R.E. Dennett. Our
collections include Kuba, Luba and Showa objects in the form of masks, textiles, cups,
boxes, stools, mats, weapons and domestic utensils. There have been no publications on
our Central African collections per se but the African Collections as a whole have been
described by Antonia Lovelace in "The African Collections at Glasgow Art Gallery and
Museum" in the Journal of Museums Ethnography no.3 (October 1991). Julian Jacobs
(1986) published 'African Art at the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum' in African Arts
XIX:2:28-40' (personal communication, 2006).
IPSWICH MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), Ipswich has about 2,000 artifacts from Central Africa. A
telephone conversation with the curator (2006) confirmed that the Central African
collections are small and mostly consist of more recent material, including printed cloths.
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service's collections database
is currently in development. The database covers Thetford, Norwich and King's Lynn's collections.
Although Schumann (1986) said that there were 70 African objects at this museum, a
recent search of the in-house database only listed 17.
LONDON - CUMING MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), the Cuming Museum holds 'hundreds' of African artifacts. About ten of these are Central African.
LONDON - HORNIMAN MUSEUM AND GARDENS
According to Schumann (1986), this museum holds circa 5,000 African artifacts. The
collections database is not on-line, but curator Hassan Arero says that the in-house
database contains basic records and photographs. He notes that 'most of our collections
will be post-war and thus probably younger than the Exeter collections' (personal
LONDON - KEW GARDENS ECONOMIC BOTANY COLLECTIONS
The majority of Kew's 700 Central African specimens are raw plant materials, with only
about 10 ethnographic items. Kew's collections from Dr. Livingstone's Zambesi
expeditions have been extensively researched and although these are from East Africa,
they could be of interest in telling the story of Stanley's exploration of the Congo River
and the subsequent colonisation of the region. Further collections from Livingstone's
expeditions are housed in Glasgow.
LONDON - UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON (UCL)
Schumann (1986) indicates that at that date, UCL held about 500 artifacts from Sub-
Saharan Africa. No further information has been obtained.
According to Schumann (1986), Manchester houses over 5,500 African artifacts. Further
catalogue research would be required to find out how many of these are Central African.
MIDDLESBOROUGH - DORMAN MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), the Middlesborough Leisure & Amenities Department
then held over 100 African artifacts. These may have been transferred to Captain Cook
Birthplace Museum, but no further information has been obtained.
NEWCASTLE - HANCOCK MUSEUM
According to Starkey (1998), the Hancock Museum holds almost 1,500 African artifacts,
some of which are from Central Africa.
NEWPORT MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Schumann (1986) notes that Newport had 'some' Zaire material, but does not detail how
much. Researcher Rowena Hill explains that 'the Congo material was once the largest
section of the Newport ethnography collection - it had circa 60 objects in total. The main
collector was Reverend White, a Baptist Missionary in the Stanley Falls area' (personal
NORTHAMPTON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), Northampton Museum and Art Gallery then held almost
100 African artifacts. No further information has been obtained.
NORWICH CASTLE MUSEUM
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service's collections database is currently in
development. The database covers Thetford, Norwich and King's Lynn's. Although the
MEG 1986 survey said that there were 60-70 African objects at this museum, a 2006
search of the in-house database only listed 17.
NOTTINGHAM CASTLE MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), Nottingham holds some 300 African artifacts. The
earliest African objects were accessioned when the museum opened in 1878. Some of
these may be Central African, but most are Nigerian.
NUNEATON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Schumann (1986), Nuneaton then held over 400 African artifacts. No
further information has yet been obtained.
PLYMOUTH CITY MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Pole (2000), Plymouth holds about 25 Central African artifacts.
POOLE WATERFRONT MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), Poole holds some 150 African items. No further
information is currently available about how many of them are Central African.
POWELL-COTTON MUSEUM, BIRCHINGTON, KENT
According to Schumann (1986) this museum, which houses only objects collected by
Major Powell-Cotton, holds some16,500 Sub-Saharan African artifacts, some of which
are Central African. The museum's website includes pages about Powell-Cotton’s 1904-07 Congo trip, illustrated with archival
READING MUSEUM SERVICE
Schumann (1986) indicates that Reading Museum had 176 African artifacts at that date.
Curator Elaine Blake notes that the museum has 'a collection of African artifacts
including an important group of Congolese items collected by Rev. J. Lawson Forfeitt
(Baptists Missionary Society) and presented to the Museum in 1890. Some of the most
significant items from this group were lent to the Horniman Museum in 1952 and should
appear in their records' (personal communication, 2006). The 35 items in the Forfeitt
collections were donated through Jamison B. Hurry. All of Reading's collections are
catalogued and photographed on an in-house database. Forfeitt and Hurry are also
CUMAA's most important sources of Central African artifacts.
ROCHESTER - GUILDHALL MUSEUM
Schumann (1986) indicates that Rochester has about 100 African items. Curator Stephen
Nye notes that only a few have been identified as Central African (personal
communication, 2006). A club and battle-axe are of particular interest as they are said to
have been used on Stanley's expeditions.
ROSSENDALE MUSEUM, LANCASHIRE
According to Schumann (1986), Rossendale then held almost 200 African artifacts.
However, curator Sandra Cruise explains that 'most of our African material was
returned/transferred to Liverpool Museum (William Brown Street, Liverpool) and the
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, some years ago' (personal communication, 2006).
SAFFRON WALDEN MUSEUM, ESSEX
This museum's collection contains circa 25 Central African items.
SHEFFIELD GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS TRUST
According to Schumann (1986), Sheffield holds some 400 African artifacts. Curator Gill
Woolrich explains that a 1995/6 audit identified over a 1,000 African objects but that the
catalogue card need to be consulted to find out how many are Central African.
STIRLING SMITH ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
According to Kwaznik (1994), the Stirling holds about 50 Central African artifacts.
SWINDON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
According to Pole (2000), Swindon holds about 22 Central African artifacts.
According to Pole (2000), the Torquay Museum holds about 17 Central African artifacts.
Curator Barry Chandler notes that some of the Congo material will be displayed in the
forthcoming 'explorers' gallery (personal communication, 2006).
NORWICH - SAINSBURY CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA
The Sainsbury collection contains just a few specimens from Central Africa, which are of
excellent quality and include power figures.
WISBECH AND FENLAND MUSEUM
According to Schumann (1986), Wisbech holds over 150 African items. No further
information has been obtained.