About the collection and the project

This website presents what the Museum of Cultural History regards as its ‘Santal Collection’. This designation implies that the objects were collected among the Santal people, without all items necessarily having been produced by Santals.

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Paul Olaf Bodding (ca. 1925). Photo: Agnes Sjølie. Source: National Library of Norway

The majority of the items were collected and subsequently donated to the University of Oslo’s former Ethnographic Museum by Reverend Paul Olaf Bodding (1865 – 1938). Bodding worked in Santal Parganas, India, as a missionary for the The Indian Home Mission to the Santals (from 1910 on known as The Santal Mission of the Northern Churches), from 1890 until 1934.

In addition to his missionary activities, Bodding was an outstanding researcher within the fields of linguistics, ethnography and oral history. He became a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1897 and of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (at the time named Videnskabsselskabet i Kristiania) the following year. He regarded the collection of ethnographic objects as an integral part of his documentation of the Santal way of life, and had throughout his time in India a close working relationship with the Ethnographic museum in Oslo.

The items he collected came to the Ethnographic museum in several shipments during the period 1900 – 1934. The collection comprises around 1000 ethnographic objects and more than 4700 archeological stone implements. As only a few of the archeological artifacts have so far been individually registered and photographed, we give prominence to the ethnographic items in this presentation.   

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Santal houses in Bishnubati village. Photo: Boro Baski

The starting point for the work on this website was the symposium Belief, Scholarship and Cultural Heritage; Paul Olaf Bodding and the Making of a Santal – Scandinavian Legacy jointly organized by the Museum of Cultural History, the National Library of Norway, and the University of Tromsø in 2015. Providing the opportunity to establish contact with a number of Santal organizations and social activists the symposium made the museum realize the need to improve the accessibility of its Santal collection to the international public in general and interested Santal groups and individuals in particular.

We are most grateful for the assistance extended to us from Santal collaborating organizations and individuals along the way. The possibility of developing friendship with Santals working to promote the cultural values of their own people has been the greatest joy of this undertaking.

For the benefit of the interested visitor, we present the collection together with morsels of information about the Santal people and the history of the Santal mission. We hope that visitors to the website will be tempted to continue their own explorations of the rich Santal culture and history.

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Dr. Boro Baski in front of Santal house in Bishnubati village. Photo: Øivind Fuglerud

Collaborating organizations


Additional resources

Published Oct. 15, 2018 12:36 PM - Last modified Mar. 17, 2020 2:05 PM