SammendragThe Ethnographic Museum of the University of Oslo (estbl. 1857) houses one of the four large Nordic ethnographic collections from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Norwegian officers, sailors, lawyers and medical doctors were hired for colonial service in the Congo Freestate (1885-1908) and later Belgian Congo (1908-1960) and subsequently brought collections home to Norway. The article starts with a presentation of the Congo exhibitions from 1904 as the museum had moved into a new building "Historisk Museum" containing professor and director Yngvar Nielsen's orderly cabinets displaying cultural differences based on geographical units and ethnicity. The homely order is contrasted with collection strategies in the Congo as part of larger colonial and cultural encounters. While the ideal for collecting may have been proto-scientific and linked to an emerging ethnographic discipline, the undertaking was rather akin to what Johannes Fabian has termed the dance of circumstances. Ethnographic collecting is depicted as tools and aids for navigating in and mapping of a complex colonial world, as well as contributing to a conception of style and form of objects representing different Congolese social groupings and ethnic boundaries - and at the same time serving as tropical hygiene: attempts towards preserving mental health and keeping up appearences as colonial officers.
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