New Exhibit Explores Race and Labor in Museum Artifacts

Black Atlas, the work of Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, opened in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery with an artist talk and reception.

How did Europe’s museums of world cultures become treasure troves of heirlooms and antiquities appropriated from around the globe? How were those museum collections constituted, and how did international artifacts travel to become a part of them? These are just a few of the questions that Black Atlas, an exhibit by artist Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, asks.

First displayed in 2016 in the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, Sweden, Black Atlas is now on view in the College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, shifting attention from prominent, singular world travelers to the deployment of local labor who made those travels possible. A selection of photographs and documents from the Swedish museum’s archive, presented in the form of installations, exposes the infrastructure behind the accumulation of artifacts and the required labor for bringing them to Europe. The exhibition features famous Swedish collectors such as Eric von Otter, Eric von Rosen, Gerhard Lindblom, and Gösta Montell, as well as the nameless porters and caravan workers who carried their burdens.

The College celebrated this latest Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery exhibition with an on-campus talk by Stockholm-based Nguyễn and a reception on Feb. 2. Take in Black Atlas yourself before it closes March 9.

Photos by Cole Sansom ’19.