The Unseen Museum: “Magician’s Mask”
This mask is part of a collection purchased in 1902 from Walther Karl, who lived in Matadi, Congo. There is very little information with the Karl collection, usually nothing more than the tribal name. There is no data about why he called this a “magician’s mask.” Dealers in that period often “enhanced” the name of an object to increase its salability. Much of the museum’s African collection came from retired missionaries and from artifact dealers.
Deb Harding is a collection manager in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Section of Anthropology. She frequently blogs and shares pieces of the museum’s hidden anthropology collection, which is home to over 100,000 ethnological and historical specimens and 1.5 million archaeological artifacts.