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 World Cultures

Our world cultures collections forge cross-cultural links across themes such as music and masquerade, ceramics, costume and textiles, and figure sculpture. Asian and African material is particularly rich as is North American beadwork, European folk items, and the traditional arts of Oceania.

Within the World Cultures collections there is a fantastic range of Chinese, Japanese and Indian costume and artefacts. Chinese ceramics and religious sculpture are on show in the Oriental Gallery at Lotherton Hall.  The World View gallery at Leeds City Museum is a changing exhibition space that shows off the best of our various world cultures collections, starting with the African collections and switching to look at Asia in 2014.

Leeds has over 12,000 items in its World Cultures collections, making it the largest centre for this collection focus in Yorkshire. Asia is best represented, particularly China and India, then Africa, followed by the Americas, Oceania and lastly Europe outside the UK. Star items include Chinese dragon robes, Japanese armour, a full-size Indian door and cart, Javanese shadow puppets, Tibetan skull cups, African masks and sculpture, a Marquesan club, early Woodlands moccasins, and Moche and Nazca pottery from Peru. There is a large handling collection of Plains American material bequeathed by friends of a local enthusiast and a good selection of masks, puppets and musical instruments world-wide.

During the last 60 years the collection has been enhanced with substantial loans from the University of Leeds and Rotherham, and the ‘rescue’ of world collections from other English local authorities, with major transfers from Worthing and Hampshire. Now our focus has re-centred on representing the world links of residents of Leeds and Yorkshire, including the links that newer communities have with their countries of origin through our community history programme. The World collections are seen as important in forging cross-cultural links across a whole range of disciplines through such elements as music and masquerade, ceramics, costume and textiles and figure sculpture. There are many overlaps with Decorative Arts, Archaeology and the Social History collections.

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