Richard Thurnwald, famous Anthropologists and Reluctant Ethnographic Collector Richard Thurnwald, famous Anthropologists and Reluctant Ethnographic Collector By Rainer F. Buschmann Thurnwald and his companions during a trip into the interior of Kaiser Wihelmsland VIII 8566, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preuβischer Kulturbesitz Richard Thurnwald (1869-1954) was a celebrated anthropologist and sociologist. He gathered significant field experiences in German New Guinea, where he went on his own (1906-1909) and as part of the Sepik Expedition (1913-1915). Given the sizeable biographical body of literature available in English and German, this Provenance entry will emphasize his two journeys to the Pacific colony. Born in Vienna into an upper-middle-class family, Thurnwald was able to study broadly. Despite concentrating on expected legal courses, his emphasis on comparative law and philology provided a foundation for his later studies in comparative anthropology. Thurnwald obtained first-hand training while studying acculturation among the local population of Bosnia Herzegovina, a territory administered by Austria-Hungary, between 1896 and 1898. In the early twentieth century, the young Austrian joined the scientific staff of the Royal Ethnographic Museum in Berlin. Although he focused initially on Egyptology, Thurnwald would eventually join the Africa and Oceania Division administered by fellow Austrian Felix von Luschan. His arrival at Luschan's division was opportune. Governor Albert Hahl visiting Thurnwald in Buin Since the turn of the century, Luschan felt losing the quantitative edge to other German museums. Enticed by German state decorations, monetary windfalls, or just caring and empathetic correspondence by museum officials, colonial residents--including colonial officials, missionaries, and traders--started to send their ethnographic collections to German destinations other than Berlin. While Luschan was proactive in involving colonial authorities to prevent, what he regarded as, illegal transactions, he also decided to dispatched trained ethnographic collectors to the colonies to enable Berlin's qualitative edge over other museums. He maintained that such expert collectors would return fewer artifacts to the German capital, but their objects would carry special provenance that placed such items in indigenous contexts. Thus, through the financial assistance of the recently established Baessler Foundation, Richard Thurnwald would arrive in the Bismarck Archipelago in 1906. Thurnwald's arrival in German New Guinea coincided with a spike in interest in indigenous material culture. The happening of two prominent ethnographic expeditions—the Berlin-sponsored Naval Expedition (1907-1909) and the Hamburg South Sea Expedition (1908-1910)—would exasperate the climate guiding ethnographic acquisitions. Resident collectors often regarded the Austrian as a competitor or, worse, an associate of Luschan's hated division. In frustration, Thurnwald wrote to his superior: "The ethnographer's heart bleeds frequently, or his fists clenches when one witnessed how 'firewood' [the colloquial term for artifacts] is amassed here in the territory… The collecting ethnographer is considered from all sides as a competitor, who seeks to prevent [a] lucrative side-business." To make matters worse, Luschan expected extensive ethnographic collections and threatened to withhold financial support on more than one occasion. Despite these adverse conditions, Thurnwald collected numerous artifacts from around the Bismarck Archipelago, taking advantage of available shipping collections, including Governor Albert Hahl's official steamer Seestern (Starfish). Admiralty Island carving collected by Richard Thurnwald, VI 29329, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preuβischer Kulturbesitz Among the perhaps best-known collection are the hundreds of Iniet stone objects returned from New Britain to Berlin. Collecting artifacts hindered what Thurnwald regarded as a deeper understanding of the societies he encountered. Governor Hahl consequently welcomed Thurnwald's attempt to move beyond ethnographic collection. In his effort to incorporate indigenous legal concepts in his administration of the large and remarkably diverse colony of German New Guinea, Thurnwald's university training came as a godsend. The governor encouraged the Austrian to depart from collection to investigate cultural manifestations practical to the colonial administration. At the same time, Hahl wrote to Luschan in support of the Austrian anthropologists: "Well-trained individuals such as Dr. Thurnwald will be rare among your staff... His published results will be brilliant." The Austrian scholar also performed significant stationary research, especially among in Buin on Bougainville, the result of which he would publish following his return to Berlin. Despite his open reluctance to perform ethnographic collections, Thurnwald would return an astonishing 3,150 artifacts, 2200 photographs, 200 skulls, and over 300 phonogram recordings. Thurnwald’s second journey to German New Guinea was as a member of the Sepik Expedition, the background of which is chronicled in the Roesicke Provenance essay. Some of the principal organizers of the expedition, especially Wilhelm Bode, the General Director of the Berlin museums, displayed concerns about Thurnwald's ethnographic collection reluctance. Others pointed out his connections to the colonial administration, especially Governor Hahl. Ultimately, a compromise developed that witness the dispatch of two trained ethnographers, Adolf Roesicke and Richard Thurnwald, along with the expedition. Roesicke followed the expedition closely, while Thurnwald would join the journey later, after concluding his monographic work on Buin. Rather than following the Sepik venture, the Austrian took several trips across Kaiser Wilhelmsland--the German part of New Guinea-- between 1913 and 1914. He would contact new societies and provided vital ethnographic and demographic information. Kulap from southern New Island collected by Richard Thurnwald. VI 27712 Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preuβischer Kulturbesitz The former Governor of German Samoa, Wilhelm Solf, who had now advanced to the position of Colonial Secretary, was so enthusiastic about the results that he vowed to support the Austrian Anthropologists well beyond the official end of the Sepik Expedition. Continuing his ethnographic journeys into early 1915, Thurnwald was oblivious to the outbreak of the First World War. But, erroneously suspecting the Austrian as a resistance fighter following the official surrender of German New Guinea, Australian troops ransacked his base camp. When he finally surrendered to Australian forces, Thurnwald continued limited ethnographic research from the Catholic mission station at Marienberg along the Sepik River. Here he also came into a close exchange with Father Franz Kirschbaum, who also professed ethnographic interests in this region. Perhaps most significant was Thurnwald's research into the Banaro who resided along the Keram River. His publication on this group, later on, would be one of the centerpieces of Thurnwald's anthropological approach. Despite his extensive roaming along Kaiser Wilhelmsland, Thurnwald was able to amass a significant collection. Australian forces, unfortunately, confiscated this trove, and a long administrative struggle to return his collection to Berlin ensued. As a result, it was not until the late 1920s that a portion with significant damage to some artifacts ended up in the German capital. Thurnwald would leave New Guinea for the United States in late 1915. Awarded a visiting fellowship at UC Berkeley, the Austrian would start publishing his Banaro material to great acclaim. Returning to Germany in 1917, Thurnwald would spend the rest of the war in uniform on the Western Front. The interwar years were turbulent for the by now middle-aged anthropologists. The volatile Weimar economic climate and a personal martial scandal prevented him from finding a chair in his discipline. Surviving on blending voluntary and part-time positions, Thurnwald would nevertheless publish his highly influential Banaro results. A Kabokab shield collected by Thurnwald, Ramunga, Lower Sepik, VI 41693. Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preuβischer Kulturbesitz Moreover, his functional theoretical outlooks severely questioned the German widespread diffusionist paradigm. In the early 1930s, he obtained foreign funding to research in former German East Africa (now Tanganyika). This endeavor culminated in a visiting professorship at Yale University (1932-1936). His return to Nazi-ruled Germany landed him a salaried emeritus position at the University of Berlin, focusing on ethnologically inspired colonialism. At the end of the Second World War, Thurnwald’s American connections prevented the demonization of his tolerant outlook on Nazism, and he became a founding faculty member at the American-funded Free University in West Berlin until he died in 1954. Although Thurnwald struggled to obtain a permanent academic post throughout his life, his long-term studies and, to a lesser extent, ethnographic collections in German New Guinea provided a solid foundation for his theoretical outlook. Training numerous Ph.D. students and writing influential works would turn Richard Thurnwald into one of the most respected and influential German-speaking anthropologists of the first half of the twentieth century.