Established in 1884, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge holds world class collections of indigenous art and artefacts from all over the world. The histories of the Collection and its curation inform us of developments in social anthropology and archaeology within the UK, and illustrate the overlaps within such scholarly pursuits. They also highlight the politics of imperialism, travel and missionary activities and connoisseurship and collecting practices of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth- centuries. The Museum's eclectic collections comprise of over 800,000 artefacts, approximately 200,000 historic photographs and an extensive archive of letters, field-notes, and associated documents. Given the unequal and exploitative dimensions of colonialism, which was the political world into which the Museum was born, it comes as a surprise to notice that a substantial bulk of the holdings are 'gifts', viz., given by people who made or used them, and by those who bought or bartered them on terms that were considered fair at the time. The collections are vital teaching and research resources, and remain important to the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, which have been reinvented several times since the Museum was founded. They stimulate interest from a wide range of people, including contemporary artists, and are highly valued by the indigenous communities whose ancestors had created and used the objects.
CONTRIBUTION FOR ECLAP
The majority of MAA's contribution to ECLAP is from the photographic collections, which is a rich source for the visual histories of ethnographic surveys. The photographs of dances, dramas, masquerades, story telling, religious and musical performances, and rites of magic originate from all over the world, and date between the 1880s and the 1930s. Many were taken during pioneering field research, of which some are also early examples of photography in the region. There are many examples of early commercial photography, and included in the selection are images of high aesthetic value, rare albumen prints, post cards, cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, and hand painted photographs.
The following is a sample (not a complete list) of the MAA's contribution:
a) Asia: Dances of the Sema and Angami Naga (collection of John Hutton, colonial administrator in India and, later, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge); Dances of the Munda people (photographed by the pioneering Indian anthropologist Sarat Chandra Roy); Dances and performances of people of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet (photographed by Frederick Williamson, Political Officer of Sikkim), Noh Theatre from Japan, 'Nat' Dances from Burma (collection of William Ridgeway, Classical scholar and Disney Professor of Archaeology); Dances of the lanoh 'negritos' (photographed by Ivor Evan, British ethnographer and curator of the Perak Museum in Malaysia); Dances and musical performances from India (photographed by early commercial firms, e.g. Edward Taurines, Bourne and Shephard, Deen Dayal and sons, Ahuja and sons etc).
b) Africa: Masquerades and performances of the Edo, Igbo, Ekoi and Ibibi (photographed by Gwilym Jones, a British administrator in Nigeria, who later taught anthropology at Cambridge); rituals at the royal court, including coronation (photographed by John Roscoe, English missionary in Uganda); Dances during religious ceremonies (photographed by David Buxton in Ethiopia).
c) North America: Dances of native North American groups, the Witoto and Okaina in the Upper Amazon, and from the Arctic Greenland, photographed by well known commercial photographers, Bureau of Ethnography in the US, Canadian Film Board, and explorers such as Thomas Whiffen, and Thomas Paterson.
d) Pacific: Story telling, dances and ceremonies from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Australia, photographed by well know commercial studios such as the Dufty Brothers, A. Tattersal, H. Keesing, pioneering explorers such as Templeton Crocker, and ethnographers, including Alfred Haddon and Gregory Bateson.
Film, 'Torres Strait Islanders'–– the surviving four-and-a-half minutes of footage filmed by Haddon on 5 and 6 September 1898, of the Malu Bomai ceremony at Kaim, in the isalnd of Mer. It is composed of five short sequences, was made three years after the invention of cine film, and is the world’s first field footage of Indigenous peoples in Australia.
The photographs will compliment 'object images' of costumes, musical implements, masks, sculptures, 'curiosities', and select items of contemporary art, related to performances and theatre from the Museum's 'artefact' collections. Some examples: Shaman costume from Mongolia, Jade mask of the Olmec from Mexico, Headdresses from the Chimu culture of Peru, Canoe prow ornaments from Solomon Islands, Warrior shield from Sarawak, Amulets from Egypt, Sami Drums, Feathered Head-dress from Torres Strait, Model of Sound boards from the Andamans, Kikuyu dance bells from Kenya, and Royal drums from Uganda.