A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Recently when I paid a visit to the Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde/ National Museum of Ethnology I did not expect it to be a such a treasure trove as I found out it to be. This museum initially started with a collection of 5000 objects from Japan. At present the museum boasts such a wide variety of objects that it would be a shame if one is to miss out on it. It is estimated that the museum boasts a collection of some 200,000 objects. Not a bad collection by any means!
Located close to Leiden Centraal station, this is one of the oldest ethnographic museums in the world and the history of this museum has a very close link to that of the kingdom of Holland. I was impressed by the sheer variety of the items on display at the museum ranging from Japan, India, Africa, China, Indonesia, Korea, Greenland, Latin America, North America and Oceania. Being a person who is interested in different cultures it was a mind blowing experience being at the Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde. I was particularly fascinated by the artifacts from Greenland and Africa on display at the museum.
When it came to the Africa section I took note of the Congolese Nkisi Nkonde fetishes, it was the first time that I came across displays like that. These are essentially voodoo dolls, also known as nail fetishes because of the often hammered nails into them, made by the Congo people of West Central Africa. It can be a bit intimidating at the same time incredible to catch a glimpse of.
The Greenland collection at the museum is also a sight to behold. I have always been fascinated by the people who live in climates of extreme cold. A visit to his section proved to be very enlightening to me, it gives a valuable insight into the life of these people as it was depicting the real people and lives as they lived it out every single day. So whether it came to their hunting equipment, kayaks, clothing or household utensils, the museum has an exhaustive collection. It also has an extensive collection of photographs made by Japp Van Zulyenm, a Dutch physicist who traveled to East Greenland in the 1930’s.
Apart from these two areas which fascinated me the museum also boasts of an extensive collection on Japan, complete with some sharp and ancient Samurai swords. It has Amerindian archaeological material, vast collection of bronzes and ivories from the Kingdom of Benin, and magical weapons from Indonesia and Maori canoes.
In addition to all these permanent exhibits the museum also has temporary exhibitions. These give you a glimpse into the world of the Mayan culture or terracotta warriors of China.
In short this is one museum which you can’t afford to miss out on!