Mapping - Retracing - Encountering

For over forty years, the Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich has held the Tibet collections of mountaineers Heinrich Harrer (1912–2006) and Peter Aufschnaiter (1899–1973), as well as Heinrich Harrer’s expedition collections from the 1960s. In the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, we dedicate two exhibitions to exploring the importance of these collections today. Following Encountering Retracing Mapping we complete this with:


Mapping Retracing Encountering

The Tibet Collections of Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter


On 17 May 1944 two Austrian mountaineers, the agronomist and cartographer Peter Aufschnaiter and the geographer Heinrich Harrer, reached the Tibetan plateau. Seven years later they left the city of Lhasa; each with his personal collection of ethnographic everyday and ritual objects, numerous black and white photographs, hand-drawn maps and sketches, and hundreds of pages of diary entries and notes.

For the first time, in this exhibition we establish links between the two collections and approach the underlying skills and contexts starting with the objects they contain. By means of steel-flint-kits, a slingshot, coins or maps we provide multi-layered insights into local creation as well as ethnographic writing and documentation in a time and region in transition – to broaden our knowledge and reflect common stereotypes about Tibet. The exhibition provides an opportunity to understand Harrer and Aufschnaiter as actors in specific historical constellations, embedded in networks of various relationships, and to make sense of the collections through their interconnections, as a condensed contemporary map of Tibet.