The archive of the Weltkulturen Museum was almost completely destroyed in a bomb attack in 1944. In order to trace the origin of the collection objects before this time, extensive research is often necessary.

America's curator Mona Suhrbier shows how this works in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau using the example of a mask from the Kwakwaka’wakw from British Columbia, Canada. In this case, “8/1634”, a small combination of numbers, helped to trace the acquisition history of the mask back to Santa Fé in 1918. You can read the whole story here:

The mask was made previously from wood, leather and iron by the Kwakwaka’wakw in British Columbia, Canada. These masks were used during performances of the secret brotherhood Hamats’a. The hinged beak with a string for opening and closing points to the man-eating raven Gwaxwgwakwalanuksiwe‘, while the straight form would indicate a mosquito, which the female cannibal Dzunuk’wa transformed into following her death.

Right now the mask is on display in our exhibition “GREEN SKY, BLUE GRASS. COLOUR CODING WORLDS“ which hopefully will be open soon.