Vatican Ethnography: the History of the Vatican Ethnological Museum 1692-2009

Katherine Aigner, Andrzej Miotk

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In 1692 five Tairona objects from present–day Colombia were sent to Pope Innocent XII. These objects were incorporated into the collection of Cardinal Stefano Borgia (1731–1804) who was a passionate collector of art and artefacts from around the world. From this original nucleus – which later became known as the ‘Borgia Museum of Propaganda Fide’ – grew the collections of the Vatican Ethnological Museum, originally known as the Missionary Ethnological Museum. Throughout the 19th century donations to the Popes were deposited in the museum, but the greatest increase to the collections came from the 1925 Vatican Exhibition, organized by Pope Pius XI. Over 100,000 objects from around the world were on exhibit for over a year. At the end of the exhibit the Pope wanted to preserve this treasure of world culture, and the Vatican Ethnological Museum was officially established in 1927. First it was housed in the “Palazzo Laterano” in Rome (known as the “Lateran Ethnological Museum”), then in 1973 all the collections were transferred into the Vatican Museums, where they still remain, as witnesses to the appreciation of the Catholic Church to the art and cultures of the world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBollettino dei monumenti musei e gallerie pontificie XXXI-2013
    Editors Cristina Pantanella
    Place of PublicationRome
    PublisherEdizioni Musei Vaticani
    ISBN (Print)9788882713485
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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