For us who live in the present is important to look at the past to shape our future. This museum was founded in 1901 through the vision of Bishop Guido M. Conforti, Bishop of Parma, who was amazed by the beauty of the objects of Chinese art he had received. Conforti, who was inspired by a "universal passion", the Museum was to be a tool to raise awareness of China.
From 1901 to 1954, the Xaverian missionaries were present only in China. During that short period of time, they have collected materials of Chinese art: pottery and ceramics, bronzes, paintings, objects in ivory, wood, stone, jade, coins and a whole range of diverse ethnographic material, such as prints, shoes, stamps, jewelry, ornaments, folding screens, everyday objects, etc…
At that time, China was “distant and foreign”. In today’s world, there is nothing “distant”, but nothing should be “foreign.”
Next to the Chinese Art, the museum displays objects of Ethnography representing various countries around the world, with particular reference to the places where the Xaverians work. This surprising material shows the different ways of living and of thinking the world over, and teaches the ingenious and artistic qualities of human beings.
Particularly significant are the collections from China, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Amazon region, and Mexico, which qualify the Ethnographic Museum itself.
The Museum displays rare examples of art and life of many countries, cultures, and peoples. Its mission remains the same: to make humanity with no borders, value our rich diversity: not so much past memories, but hope for the future, so as to live "with the whole world."
The most significant and prestious collection is without a doubt the "original" collection of Chinese Art. We can admire the collection of pottery and porcelain from China, bronze objects, paintings, silk, coins and good-luck charms, the scholar study and the "Historical Cabinets” which preserve the memory of the museum past, and the exhibit of Chinese religious statuary, together with the many items of the ethnographic collection.
The Kayapo give great importance to the various festivals during which they relive in ritual dance and joy, the wisdom of the ancestors and their birth as a people. The museum wants to convey the values that sustain their universe, transmitted by symbols that affirm their identity: body painting, feather art, crafts, the myths of origins, the consciousness of community and dignity, their idea of being people strong and beautiful, their living in a natural habitat.
Represented by masks, fetishes, amulets, symbols of power, etc... the collection of traditional African art is not just a display of objects for the aesthetic admiration of the visitors, but "it is an integral part of religion, for it supports the beliefs and rituals related to the life of its producers. These objects constitute the means or passages for people towards Transcendence, and viceversa"