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Colonial collections - the case of the Nias masks

​​Commitment: Equity & inclusion

Plaster masks modelled on the faces of people from Nias, an island on the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, are at the heart of a research project for which the Utrecht University Museum has joined forces with the Nias Heritage Museum. How do the people living in Nias today see those masks?

The history of the Nias masks is fraught with the unequal relations predominant in colonial times, as well as of a scientific practice that is perceived in a much different way compared to a hundred years ago.

At its reopening in 2022, the Utrecht University Museum expects to be able to show some of the project’s results in an exhibition that provides visitors with a much richer history of the masks than what is currently known.

In this session the museums’ directors will take you on a tour: uncovering the masks from the museum’s storage rooms in Utrecht, followed by a visit to the Nias Heritage Museum. This will start a conversation with each other and with the participants of the session.


Patricia Verheyden
Curator of interactive experiences
Geneva 23

Session speakers

Paul Voogt will show the plaster Nias masks in the storage room of Utrecht University Museum and explain the exchange project with the Nias Museum.
Museum of Nias Heritage
Nataalui Duha will show the Nias Heritage Museum and explain the way in which he expects to carry out the Nias-part of the project, the involvement of the local communities.