In Humboldt's Shadow
H. Glenn Penny
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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Pädagogik
A compelling history of the German ethnologists who were inspired by Prussian polymath and explorer Alexander von Humboldt
The Berlin Ethnological Museum is one of the world's largest and most important anthropological museums, housing more than a half million objects collected from around the globe. In Humboldt's Shadow tells the story of the German scientists and adventurers who, inspired by Alexander von Humboldt's inclusive vision of the world, traveled the earth in pursuit of a total history of humanity. It also details the fate of their museum, which they hoped would be a scientists' workshop, a place where a unitary history of humanity might emerge.
H. Glenn Penny shows how these early German ethnologists assembled vast ethnographic collections to facilitate their study of the multiplicity of humanity, not to confirm emerging racist theories of human difference. He traces how Adolf Bastian filled the Berlin museum in an effort to preserve the records of human diversity, yet how he and his supporters were swept up by the imperialist currents of the day and struck a series of Faustian bargains to ensure the growth of their collections. Penny describes how influential administrators such as Wilhelm von Bode demanded that the museum be transformed into a hall for public displays, and how Humboldt's inspiring ideals were ultimately betrayed by politics and personal ambition.
In Humboldt's Shadow calls on museums to embrace anew Bastian's vision while deepening their engagement with indigenous peoples concerning the provenance and stewardship of these collections.
noble savage, history of museums, Mesoamerican archaeology, global history, Nazi anthropology, colonialism, Humboldt Forum, Nazi racial thought, colonial objects, Maya vases, Montaigne, A History of the World in 100 Objects, repatriation, Chip Colwell, postcolonialism, Museum of Asian Art, Claude Levi-Strauss, history of anthropology, Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits, cultural history, Congo power figures, Cameroon sculpture, Neil MacGregor, postcolonial, Benin Bronzes, Wilhelm von Bode, cannibalism