Museum visit: the Rautenstrauch-Joest
If you're ever in Cologne, Germany, don't miss out on the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum! Cologne is (rightly) famous for its splendid Domkirche and the adjacent Römisches-Germanisches Museum (a collection of Merovingian jewellery not to be missed!), but on the other side of the city centre the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is an ethnographic gem.
An excellent interactive illustrates the history of the collection. I usually am not very fond of interactive applications in museums, as they more often than not are out of order, freeze halfway or simply take too long, but this one was a pleasant surprise. The history of collecting is important to keep in mind in current discussions about decolonization and restitution, and the Rautenstrauch-Joest illustrates this really well.
I was also very much taken by the two-story room housing spears, fishnets and other objects from the Pacific. Here, the aim was to illustrate curating and caring for a collection, but the view itself was also splendid. Through a series of wooden doors, tastefully arranged in a transitional space, the exhibition continues with various themes. Death and burial customs, the main aspects of the five major religions presented in parallel, the interiors of houses and camps, all represented by many original objects that served to tell the story of a people.
And of course, there is jewellery! One of the themes is the personal self: in intimate spaces, jewellery and dress ornaments from several groups are shown and their meaning explained. Identity, ritual, wealth, protection and beliefs all echo in adornment and jewellery, and the pieces on display are stunning.
See the website of the museum for their location and do visit if ever you are in Cologne!