Monday, 15 April 2013

Cook-Voyage Collections in Germany - Hernnhut


Volkerkundemuseum Hernnhut

The final stop on my trip to Germany was Herrnhut, a small town near the Czech and Polish borders.  'Hernn Hut' means 'the Lord's Watchful care', and the town was founded in 1722 by Moravian protestants who were refugees from religious persecution in Czechoslovakia.  The land was on the estate of Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, and the town grew rapidly, becoming a major centre for Christian renewal and mission during the 18th century.  Within 20 or 30 years of the founding of the town Moravian missionaries had been sent to many countries.  Zinzendorf had connections with the Royal Family of Denmark, and so missionaries were sent to Labrador and to Greenland, which were then ruled by Denmark .  Other missions were established in South Africa, North and South America and the Far East. The missions had a strong emphasis on welfare, and mass conversion was not the aim - instead, they wanted to sow the seeds of their religion in indigenous communities so that it would flourish over time. 

The Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum, embraced the Enlightenment, but, as Mr Stephan Augustin, director of the V├Âlkerkundemuseum Hernnhut, explained, they did not want themselves to be enlightened - they already had their faith.  But the voyages of discovery in particular interested them, as they were a way of finding out about other cultures and of gathering information about them for future missionary work.  The missionaries were encouraged to make collections from the cultures they worked with, and to send these collections back to Germany to teach others. 

Members of the Moravian Church were in London during the 18th Century. Cook even took a book written by a Hernhutter on the third voyage (A History of Greenland, Containing a Description of the Country and its Inhabitants: and Particularly a Relation of the Mission, carried on for above these Thirty Years by the UNITAS FRATRUM at New Hernnhuth and Lichtenfels, in that Country' by David Crantz- and in the margins annotated the differences between harpoons from Greenland and from the Northwest Coast of Canada.

The Cook-voyage display

The Cook-voyage  collection in Hernnhut was likely to have been collected on the third voyage by Lieutenant James Burney.  The collection was given to the La Trobe family, who were leaders of the Moravian Church in England, who gave it to the collection of the Moravian Church then held at the Theologisches Seminar der Bruder-Unitat in Barby.  The collection moved to Niesky in 1809, and in 1878 the museum in Hernnhut was founded.

Part of the Cook-voyage display, Hernnhut

The Cook-voyage collection did not remain intact.  As was usual at the time, pieces of mats, barkcloth and cloaks were cut off to be given away.

Fragment of Maori cloak

A sample cut from a Maori cloak illustrates this.  It was given as a thank-you to Christlieb Quandt, a missionary who had been in Surinam in 1772 and who had brought back a collection for the museum.  He was the grandfather of the founder of Hernnhut Museum, and so the two pieces were reunited again a century later.  Some of the collection was destroyed in the Second World War, or stolen when the war was over, so that nearly 70 objects are now missing.

Many thanks to Mr Augustin, who gave very generously of his time.