Curator Laurel Kendall was visiting Vietnam to collect artifacts for the 2003 exhibition Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit when she encountered an exceptional artisan near Hanoi. His medium was paper, and his specialty was creating votive offerings used in funeral rituals by the Kinh people, Vietnam’s majority population.
The Kinh, in common with some other East Asian peoples, believe that a deceased leaves the underworld 49 days after death to begin a new life. Family members burn paper objects—representing clothing, housewares, and other necessities—to equip their loved ones for the transition to the afterlife.
For the first expedition organized by the Museum’s Division of Anthropology, to the Sierra Madre range in Mexico in 1890, the Museum recruited a researcher with a truly global resume.
Born near Lillehammer, Norway, Carl Sophus Lumholtz was an ethnologist and naturalist with an intense interest in people and their environments. A pioneer of the participant-observation technique, he had come to the Museum’s attention for his work in Australia, where he spent four years learning the customs of the indigenous Australians while collecting botanical and zoological specimens.