Orphan(ed) Scroll: the Case of Contextualizing a Late Qing Object in a Slovenian Museum

In: Ming Qing Yanjiu
Helena Motoh Senior Research Associate, Science and Research Centre Koper Slovenia

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This paper focuses on the methodological problem of contextualizing singular, ‘orphaned’ museum objects when provenance is unknown. In the late 1940s in Slovenia/Yugoslavia, the haste and non-transparent process of confiscation and subsequent reappropriation took many objects from collections that they were part of and placed them in new contexts, often leaving them unexhibited due to their problematic origin. The paper takes up one such singular object, a rare late nineteenth-century Jesuit missionary scroll from Shanghai that was left without information about its provenance or former owner. It first presents the steps taken in the identification of the object, its content, and background. Then the struggle of contextualizing the object is presented, along with the limitations of this process. Finally, a reflection on the status of ‘orphaned’ objects follows, with an attempt to assess the potential of such examples against the contextualizing approaches of museum representations.

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