Reading Connections Project: World Cultures

 The 'World Cultures' project theme centred on the small collection of just under 3000 ethnographic objects at Reading Museum, known as the Historic World Objects Collection. Two strands of work, cataloguing and consultancy, will together enable the collection to be more productively used in engagement with all Reading communities, including ethnic minorities.

 

Historic World Objects at Reading Museum

Brass weight for weighing gold, from Ghana.  Courtesy of Reading Museum.The Historic World Objects Collection was mostly collected between the late-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. Most of the objects were donated by local people who had gathered artefacts during their own travels abroad. Smaller numbers were collected during the course of overseas expeditions, and others were donated as part of large collections, including Reading Museum's founding Bland and Stevens Collections. The Museum officially 'closed' the Collection and stopped acquiring objects for it in the early 1950s. A significant proportion of the collection is now used in Reading Museum's popular school loans box service, and some objects did continue to be collected specifically for this purpose after the 1950s.

 

Cataloguing

The main aim of the 'World Cultures' strand of work was to create enhanced records for 600 Historic World Objects, to be included in a new online catalogue for Reading Museum collections. These object records have new photographs and researched descriptions. They are grouped into accessible thematic topics, allowing visitors to browse by concepts such as 'Weapons and war', 'Ornamentation' and 'Money and exchange'. By highlighting this sample of the wider collection, the online catalogue will allow the Historic World Objects to become a focus for developing engagement projects with diverse communities within Reading. Mpingo wood carving of a woman and child, from Kenya. Courtesy of Reading Museum.

 

Consultancy

Eight consultants were engaged through a series of visits to advise on different aspects of the collection. The visits brought advice on a range of topics including general collections research, sub-sets of the collection with potential for use in future collaborative research projects, and historic documentation. Finally, a group seminar allowed consultants and members of the project team to discuss the potential of the collection and develop ideas for its future community engagement strategy.  

 

Read the Reading Collections blog to follow the progress of the work on the Historic World Objects Collection.

Return to the main Reading Connections page for more information about the project and its other strands of work.

Visit the World Collections page on Reading Museum's website for more information and background to the Historic World Objects Collection.

The project was generously funded by the Arts Council England's Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.

Images: brass weight for weighing gold, from Ghana, and Mpingo wood carving of a woman and child, from Kenya.  Images courtesy of Reading Museum.

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