Ethnographic Collections


The museum displays over 25,000 artifacts, evidence of non-European native cultures: from clothes to masks, amulets, weapons, work tools, furniture and leisure items, passing through books, paintings, manuscripts and more. Objects of all kinds and in a multitude of materials: wood and leaves, vegetable fibers and fabrics, fruits and seeds, bones and ivory, shells and clay, metals and stones, feathers and hair.

Valuable eighteenth-century collection assembled by James Cook during his travels in the Pacific as evidence of the material culture of the peoples of Polynesia (Oceania) and the western coast of Canada (North America).

In the Asian section, the materials collected in Indonesia by Elio Modigliani are particularly interesting: over 2,000 documentary objects from the culture of the Sumatran peoples and nearby archipelagos. Among the ethnographic collections from Africa, particularly notable are the ones about the Nilotic peoples of Sudan (Carlo Piaggia), the ethnic groups of Central Africa (Ernesto Brissoni) and the large collection from the "Eritrean Mission" (1905-1906) from which came the artifacts of the Saho and Amhara peoples.

Equally different and fabulous are the donations from collectors and scholars: again for Asia, examples of the Ainu culture of Hokkaido - Japan, which the Museum owes to the Florentine anthropologist and writer Fosco Maraini. Also noteworthy is the collection of theatrical costumes, fabrics and objects from Thailand donated to the museum by the painter Galileo Chini, as well as the splendid crafts of the native peoples of North America, who arrived in the Museum thanks to donations and exchanges with North American entities such as the Smithsonian Institution.

Finally, the Museum houses some extremely rare relics from the Medici collections, "curiosities" drawn mainly from South America.

Learn more on the ethnographic collections, in the following essays, divided by continent (English text at the bottom of the pages; essays by Monica Zavattaro, Maria Gloria Roselli, Sara Ciruzzi, Francesca Bigoni, Giovanni Saffirio). In: Moggi, J. e Stanyon, R. (eds), 2014. " The Natural History Museum of the University of Florence: Anthropological and ethnological collections ", Firenze University Press (pp. 49-179)
Nord America
Sud America


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