A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Royal Museum Edinburgh and Museum of Scotland Edinburgh
The colonial expansion in the third quarter of the 19th century helped increase its collections as officials and explorers sent back thousands of items from Africa, India, Far East, Australasia and the Americas, thus giving the museum its present international flavour.
These two buildings exist on the same site despite being very different in terms of the collections that they display. They form the oldest and youngest components of the National Museums of Scotland, which incorporates a total of seven museums
On the second floor is the Wider World gallery. On display are objects from African tribal groups, Pacific horticulturalists, and peoples from the North American plains who adapted their subsistence by means of the horse and the gun.
There are some extraordinary objects on display, ranging from domestic tools to powerful fetish figures.
The gallery was created to demonstrate the sophistication of the artistry of these peoples, manifested, for example, in spectacular work in ivory and bronze from 16th-century Benin in Nigeria.
A collection of international importance comprising 8,081 items. It is strongest in West Africa and the former British colonies, for example Nigeria and Ghana.
North Africa (Sudan and Ethiopia)
Arms and armour from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a small collection of costume, domestic implements, musical instruments, personal ornament, and nineteenth-century ecclesiastical jewellery, equipment and parchments from Ethiopia. [For North African Islamic collections, see Eastern Cultures].
West Africa (Canary Islands, Mali, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Republic of Benin, Nigeria)
Stone tools, weaponry, domestic utensils, personal implements, jewellery and clothing from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, textiles and garments from the 1960s-80s, early twentieth-century wood carving, nineteenth and twentieth-century musical instruments, many collected by the ethnomusicologist Jean Jenkins (1980 and 1991), an important seventeenth-century Sapi-Portugese ivory salt cellar from Sierra Leone (1950), a large collection of Ghanaian goldweights and gold-weighing equipment, brasswork, smoking equipment, archaeological stonework and pottery fragments found during the mid twentieth century, a well-documented Hausa collection from the teacher R E Miller (1938), religious and ceremonial material and important pieces of bronze and ivory from Benin City, including a sixteenth-century ‘princess’ head (1898).
Central Africa (Chad, Cameroons, Gabon, Loanda and Angola)
Miscellaneous utensils, arms and armour, personal ornaments, a small number of ceremonial pieces, clothing, a large group of Congolese items from the missionary the Reverend James Moon (1910, 1914 and 1916) and three important seventeenth-century Kuba cut-pile raffia embroidery covers (1854).
East Africa (Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Congo and Rwanda)
Domestic utensils, hunting and fighting equipment, clothing and personal ornaments, musical instruments, mid twentieth-century furniture, ceremonial equipment, a small number of items from the David Livingstone collection (1861), Rwandan basketry and a small group of Malagasy silk textiles (1872 and 1994).
Southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Botswana)
Domestic equipment, smoking paraphernalia, weaponry and stone tools, charms and medicinal equipment, jewellery and personal tools.
Idiens, D. Traditional African Sculpture in the Royal Scottish Museum . Edinburgh: HMSO, 1969.
Idiens, D. An Introduction to Traditional African Weaving and Textiles. Textile History 11, 1980, 5-21.
Idiens, D. The Hausa of Northern Nigeria: A catalogue of the R E Miller collection and others in the Royal Scottish Museum . Edinburgh: HMSO, 1981.
Idiens, D. The Ethnographic Boat Models in the Royal Scottish Museum . Edinburgh: HMSO, 1984.
Idiens, D. New Benin discoveries in Scotland. African Arts 14(4), 1986, 52.
Idiens, D. A Case Study in Redefining the Criteria for Collecting African Artefacts: The National Museums of Scotland. Arte in Africa 2, 1991, 70-1.
Jenkins, J. Man and Music . Edinburgh: HMSO, 1984
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