Leiden Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde)

The Philippine Collection of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden (Netherlands) (Leiden Museum Völkerkunde)

by Dorus Kop Jansen

Since the foundation of the Asia European Museum Network (ASEMUS) in 2001, close contacts have been established between the Asian countries of origin and the keepers of their cultural heritage abroad.
Cooperation has resulted in the definition of several major projects, including “Unearthing Philippine Pasts in European Museums” aiming at the prolific exchange of knowledge and ideas. This article provides a brief history of the origins of the Philippine collection of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, recently studied by scholars from the Philippines.

Up to this day, the National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde‘s Rijks Ethnographisch Museum) holds a collection of nearly 1600 objects from the Philippines. Basically, the renown of the Philippine collection of Museum Volkenkunde is based on two circumstances: its early date (most items were acquired in the last two decades of the 19th century during the late Spanish period) and the fact that the core of it (almost ninety percent) was brought together by only three different collectors.

Within the span of twelve years the Philippine collection would grow to impressive proportions, due to the efforts of the French diplomat Brejard, the German pharmacist Alexander Schadenberg and the Dutchman Adriaan van der Valk. To a lesser extent, the Dutch honorary consul at Manila, Paulus Meerkamp van Embden, also contributed to the Philippine collection.

Brejard The first impressive Philippine collection Museum Volkenkunde acquired was in the possession of the Frenchman Brejard, who offered it for sale in 1886. Because the name Brejard was until recentiy misspelled as Bregald (which is the name to be found in publications prior to 2007) the person behind the collection remained completely invisible.

Nothing of him was known, only that he resided in Paris. A survey in the archives of the Museum Volkenkunde in 2007 led to the discovery of a short correspondence between Brejard and the director of ‘s Rijks Ethnographisch Museum at that time, Dr. Lindor Serrurier.

From his first letter, dated June 19, 1886, we learn that Brejard had only very recendy returned from Manila, where he held the post of “Chancelier du Consular de France” for five years.(2)

Brejard recommends his “most remarkable” ethnographical collection which consists of:

1. An amount of costumes and embroidery on silk and pineapple fiber of the inhabitants of Manila and surroundings;

2. A quantity of weapons, clothing, utensils, ornaments, etc., used by the Igorot of the Valley of Benguet (North Luzon);

3. A magnificent collection of weapons, shields, metal objects, armor, headdresses, costumes, embroidery, ornaments, etc., of tribes, originating from Malaysia (Muslim and others) living along the shores and surroundings of the Gulf of Davao (south of Mindanao).

Brejard promotes the items from Mindanao in particular: “This last collection—the catalogue provides the names of all objects in the different dialects of the country—is surely unique to Europe and consists of numerous objects absolutely unknown to this day.”

In a following letter of July 6, Brejard suggests that, based on additional information he could provide, a publication of this collection would be worthwhile. This publication, however, would never be realized. Brejard, eventually asking a price of 9000 francs, was obviously in a certain hurry to settle the deal while making arrangements to leave Paris, and agreed in the end to 5000 francs.

The Brejard collection (RMV 566) comprises 290 objects, geographically distributed as follows:
  • 56 from Manila and surroundings 
  • 55 from Northern Luzon  
  • 179 from Mindanao 

Unfortunately, we do not know how Brejard operated to obtain his collection. Were the items painstakingly collected on field trips initiated by himself or did he use intermediaries? Brejard himself considered the collection of Mindanao to be highly unique.

Research, initiated in the late 20th century by Florina Capistrano- Baker, proved that his collection of costumes of Manila and surroundings is by far more unique, indeed, in one case, to comprise the only attested examples in the world ascertained to have survived. This accounts for a group of seven embroidered silk trousers. Before they were identified, these garments were only known through 19th-century drawings.

Alexander Schadenberg (1852-1896)

Alexander Schadenberg was born on May 27, 1852 as son of a pharmacist employed at the princely court at Breslau (Wroclaw in present- day Poland). After finishing his studies in botany, pharmacy and chemistry, he departed in 1876 to the Philippines to work as a chemist in the German firm of Pablo Sartorius in Manila.

During 1876 and 1896, Schadenberg would pass alternate periods in Germany and the Philippines. In 1881, he left for Vigan (Ilocos Sur) were he had bought a pharmacy. Later he became co-owner of the firm Boie & Schadenberg based in Manila. Wasted by disease, he died on January 15,1896 in Capiz, on the island of Panay — meeting his untimely death at the age of 43.

Alexander Schadenberg proved to be a man of many talents who showed great interest in the Philippine archipelago and its people. In fact, he was more attracted to scientific issues than he was to business.

Well- educated, enterprising, and deeply influenced by Darwinism, he contributed to the scientific debates of his time. His adventurous life brought him to many different places, where he concentrated on broadening and improving his knowledge of the natural and cultural worlds.

This pursuit resulted in a huge collection of ethnographical objects, human remains, and specimens in the realm of flora and fauna.

His main contribution was in the field of ethnography on which he published in several scientific journals. Information was collected on various trips and expeditions which sometimes led him to places never visited by Europeans before. As Schadenberg had independent means and was not bound to church doctrine or political strategies of the colonial authorities, he could freely chose his own lines of investigation, obviously as far as circumstances permitted.

From December 1881 to June 1882, he stayed in Mindanao in the company of the photographer Otto Koch. They resided in Sibulang, near Mount Apo, the highest mountain of the country.

Between 1886 and 1889, Schadenberg equiped at least three expeditions to the interior of Northern Luzon. It made him the only traveler to visit all five main ethnological regions of the Gran Cordillera Central (Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga) in Spanish time.

The director of ‘s Rijks Ethnographisch Museum established contacts with Schadenberg in 1889 and this resulted in the shipment of 144 ethnographic items between 1891 and 1895. One hundred seventeen came from the Philippine Islands proper—the remaining 27 mainly originating from the Islands Yap and Truk (Carolines).

The Schadenberg ethnographical collection is mainly divided between the Ethnographic Museum in Dresden and Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden. Schadenberg’s friendly connection with Adolf Bernhard Meyer, director of the museum in Dresden, would certainly account for the advantageous position of this museum in the early years. That Museum Volkenkunde, in the end, would surpass Dresden,’ finds its cause in the decision of his widow, Anna Schadcnberg-Handler, to sell the remaining collection Alexander Schadenberg left behind to  Rijks Ethnographisch Museum.

German scientific institutions, like Dresden or Berlin, apparendy were not prepared, or could not pay enough, to secure the acquisition of his legacy, consisting of more than thousand ethnographical objects and a substantial amount of human skeletal remains.

Museum Volkenkunde holds a total of 929 ethnograpical objects from the Philippines that were collected by Schadenberg. The geographical distribution is diverse, most objects originating from Northern Luzon (644), Luzon, and Mindanao with smaller amounts stemming from other areas like the Sulu archipelago, Palawan, Calamian Islands, and Batan Islands.

Provenance Schadenberg Collection
North Luzon< (not specified) 420
Abra 92
Benguet 14
Bontoc 43
Cagayan 4
llocos 18
Isabela 2
Lepanto 45
Laguna 6
Luzon (rest) 71
Batan Islands 11
Cebu 5
Mindanao 78
Mindoro 1
Palawan/Calamian 20
Panay 4
Sulu 37
Philippines (not specified) 58
Total 929

A. van der Valk

Shortly after the first contacts with Schadenberg were established, the museum had the opportunity to acquire a rather substantial collection offered by the Dutchman Adriaan van der Valk (RMV 825).

Van der Valk was connected with the tobacco and cigar-manufacturing industry. He worked for the Tabacalera company in Tuguegarao (province of Cagayan) as an experienced tobacco appraiser and purchaser.” In addition, he also worked for the company Baer Senior & Ca, were he held procuration since 1888.

He was married to a Filipina, Eugenia Campo; they setded in Tuguegarao in 1890—later they moved to Cabagan Viejo. The collection that was sold to the museum in 1891, consists of over 200 items. Stationed in Tuguegarao, and later in Cabagan Viejo (province of Isabela), Van der Valk seems to have mainly traveled in the eastern part of the Cordillera, witness the fact that most objects were collected in the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela.

It forms an interesting addition to the collections of Schadenberg who used Vigan as operating base, located in the western part of Northern Luzon. Van der Valk only wrote but a few letters to the director of ‘s Rijks Ethnographisch Museum, in 1891, with no further details whatsoever.

The correspondence with his sister, Sophie van der Valk, in the autumn of 1897 is more informative. We learn that her brother has died and left her a few objects from the Philippines she offers to sell. Schmeltz, director since 1896, suggests to bring in the firm Brill to set the sale, on which she agrees.

In December of that year, Rijks Ethnographisch Museum acquires through the above-mentioned firm five objects from the Philippines (RMV 1147): three spears, a beautiful rain cape and the wooden sculpture of an anito, very much resembling other anito sculptures in the collection Van der Valk.

There is little reason to doubt that these artifacts indeed were collected by Van der Valk and entered the museum through his sister.

Provenance Van der Valk Collection
North Luzon (not specified) 15
Abra 12
Abra or Cagayan 17
Cagayan 52
llocos 6
Isabela 65
Isabela or Cagayan 10
Luzon (rest) 20
Mindanao/Sulu 1

P.K.A. Meerkamp van Embden (1862-1931)

As a result of the abolition of the tobacco monopoly, tobacco companies anticipated fortune, which led in 1883 to the posting of Paulus K.A. Meerkamp van Embden on Philippine soil.

He came from a family that owned a tobacco and trading company in Rotterdam and was charged with the task to investigate possibilities and prospects. He proved to be a very successful businessman.

At the age of 27, he was assigned to the post of honorary consul of the Netherlands in Manila which he would hold until 1927. In the Philippines, he met Alexander Schadenberg and between the two men a warm friendship developed. He joined Schadenberg on two excursions to Mindoro. A planned third trip was never realized, because of Schadenberg’s death. Meerkamp van Embden was also acquainted with Adriaan van der Valk, who appears on several photos in the famous photograph collection Meerkamp van Embden would bring together.

Although the role of Meerkamp van Embden as a collector of ethnographic items is less significant, he would eventually contribute 83 objects to  Rijks Ethnographisch Museum, of which 43 come from the Philippine Islands proper (41 from Luzon and two from Mindanao).

The decisive years, 1886-1898

Between 1886 and 1898, consequently in a period of no more than twelve years, Museum Volkenkunde amasses an impressive collection from the Philippines.(13)

The explosive growth in the last two decades of the nineteenth century is closely connected with the reassessment of the museum policies (formulated since the 1860’s) in order to create a modern, broadly-oriented ethnographical museum.

Before, the museum basically only owned the Japanese-oriented collection of its founder, the German doctor Franz Philipp von Siebold, increased with the first collections brought in from the Dutch East Indies.

Under the directorship of Serrurier (1882-1896) the collection increased fivefold from less than 10,000 to over 55,000 objects. Serrurier revealed himself an enthusiastic agent, actively searching for opportunities, exploring markets, direcdy approaching trading companies and potential collectors.

In 1896 J.R.D. Schmeltz became the new director who, in broad outlines, continued the policy of his predecessor.

Growth of the Philippine collection
Date Collectors Series Number Cumulative
Before 1886 Diverse 15
1886 Brejard 566 290 305
1891-1895 Schadenberg 821/882/936/1047 117 422
1891 A. van derValk 825 (203) 188 610
1894-1928 Meerkamp van Embden 989/1109/1250/2143 43 653
1898 Schadenberg 1183 812* 1465
After 1898** Diverse 117 1582

*circa 100 objects were exchanged with other museums **with the exclusion of Meerkamp van Emden

Serrurier and his Hints to Collectors

As part of this policy, Serrurier formulated, as early as 1882, his “Hints to Collectors” in which he unfolds an instruction to collectors, indicating what kind of objects ought to find their proper place in an ethnographical museum. As a direction, Serrurier draws up a short account of the contents of such a museum, and classifies the different groups of related objects, encompassing all aspects of material culture, according to a logical scheme of twelve different categories:

I. Food and Drink, Dainties; Stimulants (tobacco and opium); Medicines

II. Clothing and personal Apparel; Ornaments; the Toilet

III. Architecture (including models of houses and bridges); Furniture 22 Hunting; Fishing

V. Gathering of food; Agriculture and Horticulture; Breeding of cattle

VI. Shipping and Ship-building; Vehicles

VII. Trade

VIII. Manufacture of products of the Minerals, Vegetable and Animal kingdoms

IX. Arms and Munitions of war; Military clothing; Attributes; Trophies

X. Signs of Dignity worn by Chiefs and their Attendants

XI. Production of Art and Art-manufacture; Musical Instruments; Attributes of Dancing

XII. Religion;

Education In the general considerations, Serrurier also stresses the importance of (collecting) duplicates:

"Duplicates are only such objects as precisely correspond with each other in all respects. Objects in general, or in every-day use, ought to be presented in a museum by more than one specimen at least. Besides, duplicates, if they can be obtained on advantageous terms, are always very desirable in a museum as articles of exchange."

With reference to the Schadenberg collection sold by his widow (RMV 1183), quite a few objects were listed as “duplicates” in the museum’s inventory' books. Consequendy, these items were considered suitable to be used as objects of exchange with other museums.

This indeed occurred on several occasions: between 1913 and 1929 circa one hundred “Schadenberg” objects changed ownership, which accounts, in combination with a few reported losses caused by' damage and decay to the adjusted number of 812 entries.

The Juynboll publication of 1928 The “functional” categories, designed to structure human activities, was not only meant to be a guideline to collectors in the field. As a leading principle it also constituted the backbone to the 23-volume publication on the Indonesian collection compiled by Dr. H.H. Juynboll between 1910 and 1932.

Remarkably, Juynboll dedicated volume 20 of this series to the Philippines (published in 1928). It is, up till now, the only comprehensive description of the Philippine collection as a whole.

In the two-page introduction of volume 20 Juynboll stresses the close ties that exist between both archipelagos on the basis of following observations:

  1. Language, geography and ethnology of the Philippines are closely related to North Sulawesi;
  2. Sulu krisses are exported to the north of Borneo; 2
  3. Ikat technique occurs widely in both the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines;
  4. The existence of a particular type of musical instrument (togo) in Mindanao, likewise encountered on many islands of the Netherlands East Indies. Three main areas were distinguished, for convenience sake “Luzon” comprising all geographical entries but the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao.

The Negrito objects, surpassing geographical boundaries, are treated separately. A survey according to the different categories may give insight into the (quantitative) composition which clearly indicates its focal points on weapons and clothing/ornament:

Juynboll 1928 subdivision according to categories
Categories Sulu-islands Mindanao Luzon Negrito Total
Food & drink 4 115 119
Dainties (smoking/sirih) 32 85 5 122
Ornaments 50 80 12 142
Clothing 2 60 214 4 280
The Toilet 2 33 35
Furniture 16 43 2 61
Hunting/fishing 2 9 14 7 32
Agriculture 1 3 17 2 23
Shipping 1 8 28 37
Trade 2 3 5
Manufacture 1 13 14
Weapons 54 68 185 49 356
Signs of dignity 4 4
Art 14 28 42
Religion 2 1 30 33
Total 64 268 892 81 1305

New directions

The Philippine collections have long been considered dependant on the Indonesian collection. With the exception of Juynboll 1928, scholarly attention has long been dormant. No serious research was conducted by staff members of Museum Volkenkunde, nor were the Philippines defined as a territory to initiate further research or to compile additional collections on the spot. 

Fortunately, during the last decade, its richness is again enthusiastically explored. Close cooperation between the Philippine descendants and the guardians of their cultural heritage abroad will prove to be of eminent importance to fully reveal the splendour these collections manifest.


1 The National Museum of Ethnology, nowadays called Museurn Volkenkunde, changed its name several times. Between 1B64 and 1931 the official name was's Rijks Ethnographisch Museum. In this article both names will be used: Museum Volkenkunde when refenng to the current situation, ’s Rijks Ethnografisch Museum with reference to the historical period in which contacts with the four collectors were established.

2 When exactly Brejard held the office Is not precisely clear. One may think of the years 1881-1886 but It still might be a little earlier. That Brejard was attached to the consulat in 1881 is confirmed by a passage In ■voyage aux Philippines et Malasie' In which the Frenchman Joseph Montane> deXT th burning to Europe he evokesffislast moments n Manila where he arrived on 21 March 1881: I spent the whole month there, hoping In vain to recover. In the hosptable residence «'Louis Genu, whose affectionate and meticulous care, undoubtedly would have restored my health.If fever, and concomitant collapse, could be cured otherwise than by returning to Europe. As far as fever permitted. I spent most pleasant moments with Mister Genu and our fellow-country-men, stationed in Manila, particularly Mister Brejard. chancelier of the French Consulat and Mister Aussenac, former officer of the cavalry.

3 Since 2007, a selection of the Brgjard collection of the Tagalog and mestizo garments is presented to the Philippine public through a five-year exhibition in the Ayala Museum (Makati City) and the associated publication 'Embroidered Multiples, 18th-19th Century Philippine Costumes".

4 In Mindanao he discovered the "Rafflesla schadenberftlana', a flower named after him.

5 In 1880 he established his reputation as an ethnographer, when he published his 'Ober die Negritos der Philippinen'. Subsequently he would comment on several Issues, most prominently on the Inhabitants of the Gran Cordillera Central. For a list of his publications see Van den Muljzenberg 2004: 28-29.

6 They would climb Mount Apo twice, In February and March 1882. The first European to climb Mount Apo was the Frenchman Joseph Montano who also mentioned Brdjard In his travel accounts.

7 According to William Henry Scott See Scott 1974:310-320.

8 The Ethnographical museum in Dresden possesses 770 ethnographic items collected by Schadenberg
Museum Volkenkunde over a thousand.

9 A third place to be mentioned is the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Vienna to which ca. 500 Schadenberg objects found their way.

0 Serrurler aimed at the founding of a separate department dedicated to physical anthropology. Eventually, in 1936, this collection was conveyed
to the Anatomical Museum in Leiden.

10 The Tabacalera company, the Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinos was founded in 1881 by the
Spanish businessman Antonio Lopez Lopez, Initiated to challenge the tobacco monopoly installed in 1782 by the Spanish government guided by recommendations of the governor of the Philippines, General Jose Basco. The tobacco monopoly was eventually abolished in 1883.

11 The little information on his life and whereabouts in the Philippines is to be found In Otto van den Mui- jzenberg, The Philippines through European lenses: late 19th century photographs from the Meerkamp van Embden collection, pp. 89-90. Van den Muijzenberg
also Identifies Van der Valk on several photographs.

12 Maybe even remarkable, after 1898 contributions to the Philippine collection virtually came to a halt. In the twentieth century the growth of the Philippine collection barely exceeds hundred objects. Most of these entered the museum before 1930.


Capistrano-Baker, Florina H., Pieter ter Keurs and Sandra B. Castro,Embroidered Multiples: 18th-19th Century Philippine Costumes from the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands, Royal Netherlands Embassy/Ayala Foundation Inc., Makati City 2007.

Juynboll, Dr. H.H., Catalogus van’s Rijks Ethnographisch Museum, deel XX:
Philippijnen, EJ. Brill, Leiden 1928.

Montano, Joseph, Voyages aux Philippines et en Malasie, Hachette, Paris 1886.

Muijzenberg, Otto van den, Two Ethnographic Collectors in the Late Spanish Philippines:

Alexander Schadenberg &amp; P.K.A. Meerkamp
van Embden, Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden 2004.

The Philippines through European lenses: late 19th century photographs from the Meerkamp van Embden collection, Ateneo de Manila University Press/ KITLV Press, Manila/Leiden 2008.

Rohde-Enslin, Stefan, Ostlich des Horizonts: Deutsche Philippinenforschung im 19. Jahrhundert, Wurf Verlag, Altenberge 1992.

Scott, William Henry, The Discovery of the Igorots: Spanish Contacts with the Pagans of Northern Luzon, New Day Publishers, Quezon City

Serrurier, Dr. L., Hints to Collectors,  Rijks Ethnographisch Museum, Leiden 1882.

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