The travels of the anthropologist Hermann Klaatsch in Australia

The research project "The Australian Aborigines as an ‘object of study'. A Study on the academic reception of the other" as exemplified by the travels in Australia of the anthropologist Hermann Klaatsch at the beginning of the 20th century based on his estate and collection ran from November 2004 to October 2007. This project was funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung (Foundation for Sponsoring Scientific Research).

The focus of this research project was the Australia collection of the German anthropologist and explorer Hermann Klaatsch (1863-1916), who collected more than 2,000 ethnographic artefacts of the Australian aborigines during his three-year travels in Australia from 1904 to 1907. Klaatsch had originally travelled to Australia to throw light on questions concerning the origins of human development but soon began to be strongly interested in the culture of the aborigines and their artefacts. This was also influenced by an increasing demand from German anthropological museums, among them Cologne, for ethnographic artefacts for the expansion of their collections. In 1907 Klaatsch's entire Australia collection was presented to the public in the first special exhibition of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum. In March 1908 the museum was able to acquire over 800 objects from the Klaatsch collection. Thus, this part of the collection is one of the museum's oldest.

Necklace, seashell discs, string made of plant fibres.
Collected by Klaatsch in 1904/1905 in Cairns and vicinity.
North Queensland, Australia.

On the basis of the newly accessible private and anthropological estate of Hermann Klaatsch it has been possible to re-write the history of this collection and the travels in Australia of this German anthropologist. It was possible to gain important insights into the acquisition of the objects, their manufacture, use, distribution and local terminology and also into the work of an explorer and collector at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, the research project also provided an important contribution to the scientific perception of foreign cultures at this time.

The results were published in Ethnologica Volume N. F. No. 27 under the title
"Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen - Die Australienreise des Anthropologen und Sammlers Hermann Klaatsch 1904-1907"
published by Wienand-Verlag Cologne
(Dr Corinna Erckenbrecht).

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Cultures of the world
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