SENKU-seminar med Vibeke Maria Viestad
"Fetish against sickness". Dr. Inge Heiberg, his gift to the museum, and 100 years of exhibition practices.
NB: Note that the seminar is not held at its usual location. Maximum number of attendees is 20. It will also be possible to participate online: https://uio.zoom.us/j/62827616179 / Meeting ID: 628 2761 6179
Dr. Inge Heiberg (1861-1920) first left for Congo in 1897. Employed as a medical doctor under the reign of King Leopold II he travelled all over the region for many years, all the while collecting ethnographic artefacts that he would bring back to Director Yngve Nielsen of the Ethnographic Museum in Christiania. All in all, Heiberg’s donations from 1903, 1905, 1911, 1913 and 1920 sums up to a total of almost 1300 utility articles, weapons, musical instruments, masks, “fetishes”, mats, pots, chairs…and so on – still the biggest collection ever received at the museum from one single donor. Director Nielsen made sure to thank Heiberg repeatedly, often on behalf of “the Fatherland” and he was most likely directly involved when Heiberg was awarded the Order of St. Olav in 1908 for his generous gift to the University.
Ever since the first Africa exhibition of the new ethnographic museum in 1904, objects deriving from Heiberg’s Congo collection have been on display in at least 7 permanent and temporary exhibitions. Some of these were on for years, and through archival records, personal communication, online documentation and a few existing exhibitions catalogues it has been possible to sketch together a general idea of what kinds of artefacts that have been fore fronted in these exhibitions. It seems evident that a strong focus on “fetishes” and ancestor figurines (anefigurer), masks and chairs has been persistent through more than 100 years of display, as well as differing curatorial regimes and museological paradigmes.
Vibeke Maria Viestad (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in archaeology at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo.