Inglefield's Africa Revisited

West Africa and Britain through one man’s collection

The exhibition was produced in partnership with Jana De Brabant, an MA student studying Curatorial Practice at Bath Spa University. It revaluated a collection of African artefacts collected by Major Arthur Inglefield in the late 19th century and donated to BRLSI in 1936.

Curator’s statement:

After Major Inglefield’s collection was donated to BRLSI in 1936 it was arranged for display in the tradition of a cabinet of curiosities. The objects were grouped closely together on a shelf and were not explained to the viewer. There was little or no interpretation and one was simply intended to enjouy their ‘exoticism’ and ‘otherness’. 

I would argue that this approach is not acceptable in today’s society, yet there are still art museums that display cultural material as purely aesthetic objects, declining to contextualise them with information about their origin and meaning. On the other hand, some museums put too much emphasis on interpretation and the visitor suffers information overload.

This exhibition tries to strike a balance between the aesthetic appeal of these objects, placed in a contemporary setting, and the vital context that connects us to another culture and time. The motivation behind colonial collecting and the change in museum display methods are central points to the interpretation of this exhibition.