The MCAH began an ongoing inventory and historical study of its ethnographic collection in 2016. Most of the collection was acquired by the museum through donations from Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Oceania by Swiss citizens between 1820 and 1980.
This historical research has provided material for several exhibitions, including Exotic ?, Retracer la provenance and Les collections invisibles du MCAH and given rise to the publication of special issues of the series entitled Patrimoines. Collections cantonales vaudoises. It has also revealed the existence of archives and collections from the same donors or geographical origins preserved in other museums and archive centres around Europe and the world.
This has made it possible to clearly identify the colonial provenance for some collections. Consequently, provenance research has become a major focus of research into the collection, as recommended by the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. As a result, the MCAH submitted a project responding to the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) 2022 call for support for 2023 and 2024 which made collections acquired in colonial contexts one of the priorities for provenance research.
Entitled Collection d’ethnographie du Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire et origine coloniale ? (Ethnographic collection of the Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire and colonial origin ?), the project receives support from the FOC, offering the museum the opportunity to conduct more active ongoing provenance research. The project is coordinated and carried out by Claire Brizon, research supervisor at the MCAH, in close collaboration with the provenance research specialists Lange&Schmutz.
Publication (in French)
. Voyageurs, naturalistes et militaires. Des collectes dans les îles du Pacifique et de l’océan Indien aux réserves du Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire à Lausanne, Hors-série no 1, Patrimoines. Collections cantonales vaudoises. 2019.