The Hans Leder Collection: A Treasure of Tradition for Modern Mongolia

M.-Katharina Lang
University Vienna

The Hans Leder Collection: A Treasure of Tradition for Modern Mongolia

47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004

The entomologist and scientist Hans Leder acquired an immense collection during several stays in Outer Mongolia between 1892 and 1905. Some seven thousand objects are now dispersed over a number of different European museums (Stuttgart: Lindenmuseum; Budapest: Orszago Neprajzi Museum; Leipzig: Völkerkundemuseum; Hamburg: Völkerkundemuseum; Praha: Naprstek Museum; The Museum of Opava; The Museum of Ethnology in Vienna). This paper presents an overview of the objects of the Hans Leder Collection in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna.

In its quantity, Leder’s collection as a whole represents one of the most extensive in Europe. In its quality the collection is of considerable importance because it provides information about aspects of traditional and religious art in Outer Mongolia at the turn of the century, for instance about the Mongolian pantheon. Furthermore, the collection gives us key information about Mongolian material culture. However, the collection represents the choice of Hans Leder and it is inevitably his perception of Mongolian culture which shines through its composition.

Conserved in museum depots, Leder’s collection has remained more or less unchanged. By contrast, drastic political and cultural changes have taken place in Mongolia since Leder’s day. Of particular relevance here are the results of the heavy-handed campaign against Buddhism which took place during the 1930s and led to the destruction of most of the Buddhist monasteries and monuments.

in this sense the Hans Leder collection, unique in its compass and representative of Mongolian ritual art at the turn of century, has acquired a special importance today, a century later. The reading of the paper will be accompanied by a number of photos representing a choice of objects from the Viennese collection.