Twelve Thousand Items—The Beginnings of the European Collection

Museum der Kulturen Basel
Ongoing Event
Fri., 26 until Sun., 27 April

Every object in the European collection of the Museum der Kulturen Basel (MKB) has its own story to tell. The museum's latest exhibition, "Zwölftausend Dinge—Anfänge der Sammlung Europa," reveals their gripping, curious, and even tragic fates while throwing light on the individuals the museum has to thank for these objects. Twelve thousand objects from Europe entered the collection of the MKB between 1900 and 1936, and were recorded in the so-called accession book. At the start of the exhibition, visitors can browse through a copy of it. In it, they'll discover what was purchased, exchanged or donated; where things came from, how much they cost, and who sold them. Visitors will encounter some of those individuals again later in the exhibition. Take the museum caretaker, for instance, who was encouraged to look out for folk art objects while holidaying in the Jura mountains and to bring some back with him to Basel. Or Eduard Hoffmann-Krayer, the then curator of the European section. He practically smuggled one of his three-piece suits into the collection. Then there was the little girl from Uri who had a bit of a record – albeit in a good way.
Some 370 exhibits associated with everyday life, faith, and superstition convey a vivid impression of life in Europe at the start of the 20th century. Some 130 amulets reveal what people were afraid of, what they hung around their neck to ward off evil, to protect their health, or to bring them luck. The First World War left its mark on the era and the MKB, whose collecting activities were constrained by scarce funds and closed borders. A large Japanese Buddha once became stranded in a safe port, for instance. Interestingly, collectors were also dispatched to war zones: husband and wife Julius and Anna Konietzko, for instance, were sent to the Balkans from where they returned with many objects.


Museum der Kulturen Basel
Münsterplatz 20
4051 Basel

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