In Tunis, the first collections of antiquities were established in the 18th - 19th centuries. European Consuls, foreign scholars, and international traders acquired most of the archaeological remains then available from the ancient city of Carthage. Whether growing out of their personal taste, commercial considerations, or a desire for cultural distinction, they enriched the collections of major European museums. This collecting practice was not limited to foreigners, but also touched the local ruling class.
Ministers and the Bey himself constituted rich collections, the most famous of which belonged to the main Tunisian families of the 19th century. The result of ongoing sustained effort, these collections had a notoriety exceeding the country, guaranteeing the fame of their owners on a transnational level, as when they were exhibited in World’s Fair of 1855 and 1873. The Tunisian ruling class quickly became aware of the stakes of their cultural heritage, formerly ignored, which became an important referent of national identity before the French colonization in 1881.
Speaker Bio: Dr. Ridha Moumni read Art History and Archaeology in Paris, at La Sorbonne University, where he earned his Ph. D. He researches classical, modern and contemporary art from a global and transnational perspective, with emphasis on questions of collecting practice and intellectual history. Winner of several prizes he was the first Tunisian Fellow at the French Academy in Rome (Villa Medici). Curator of exhibitions of photography and modern art, he recently organized with the Rambourg Foundation The Awakening of a Nation: Art at the Dawn of Modern Tunisia (1837-1881) to commemorate the 60th birthday of the National Independency. Dr. Moumni is currently head of project of the creation of the Qsar es-Saïd Art Museum, the future museum of Ottoman era in Tunisia.