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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

 

Okwa (box)
19th or 20th century
Awbgu, Nigeria
Z 14198.1-2


"Part of this box was missing for at least 43 years. I worked with the lid in 2018 and was upset that the base, shown in a 1911 photograph, had since been misplaced. Three years later, I recognised the base on a colleague's desk and we reunited them!"

Katrina Dring


Tail of two halves

I first met this dog while working on the Museum Affordances Project in 2018. From documentation, including a 1911 field photograph (P.31169.NWT), I knew that the lid was collected with a base. I had the lid, but the base had been noted as missing since at least 1978. Where was it? Reluctantly, I documented what I had and moved on. See if you can spot the box in the 1911 field photograph, P.31169.NWT:  

 

Fast forward to the Stores Move Project 2021, when I walked past a colleague’s desk and saw a round dish with a rectangular projection. It tickled my brain. And then a lightbulb moment. ‘I think I know what that belongs with!’ We excitedly checked the measurements. Could it be? I was increasingly sure that this was the base I had been unable to find 3 years before, but maybe it was just similar? When we got the lid out of its storage box to check, we were delighted to finally reunite base and lid and proudly update the records.

 

It was an incredibly satisfying moment, both personally and professionally. It highlights the benefits of careful documentation and staff continuity. Combining the donor's lists and photographs with MAA’s records allowed us to resolve a long-standing mystery. The memory of my interaction with the lid, and the frustration I felt at the loss, also had a large part to play.

The documentation and photographs being produced as part of the Stores Move Project will hopefully mean more reunited objects (and fewer missing ones) in the future.

Explore these objects further:

https://collections.maa.cam.ac.uk/objects/568516

Explore the full collections database:

https://collections.maa.cam.ac.uk


Katrina Dring - Collections Assistant (Stores Move)

 

 

Katrina (BSc, MA) has a background in Archaeology, Anthropology and Museum Studies.  In her current role she is documenting, photographing and packing collections at MAA’s off-site stores, ready for the move to the new Centre of Material Culture.  Katrina began working with the Anthropology collection at MAA in 2018, including couriering international loans and documenting West African collections for the AHRC-funded Museum Affordances project.  She has also worked with collections at the Duckworth Institute, Cambridge and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

Katrina has an MA in the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas from UEA, Norwich and a BSc in Archaeology from the University of Exeter. She has always been interested in cross-disciplinary ways of working and brings her knowledge of mathematics, science, materials and manufacturing to her current work where possible. She has written a number of blogs, which you can read here: https://www.museums.cam.ac.uk/blog/author/katrina-dring/

She is particularly interested in the crafting processes: how, why and by whom things are made and remade. Katrina enjoys bringing information from her own craft experiences to gain a deeper understanding of the objects she works with.

Katrina began working with the Anthropology collection at MAA in 2018 as a Collections Assistant for the AHRC-funded Museum Affordances Project, working to document the West African collection made by Northcote Whitridge Thomas. From 2019-2020, she was the Collections Assistant for Anthropology, documenting and caring for collections, couriering international loans and assisting the collections manager.

She has also worked with collections at the University Library and the Duckworth Collection in Cambridge, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.