Talking Objects

AfricaMuseum Podcast

Join us as we walk around the labs, offices and archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa to meet the scientists who work here. In this podcast series we explore the fascinating story behind eight objects. Each object was carefully picked by a researcher. Some objects are on display in the museum while others belong to the nitty-gritty of everyday research, but they all carry a bit of the researchers' passion for their field.

  • #8: Goma’s “mystical beast of burden”

    In this episode, we will be careening down hills with Theodore Trefon, an expert in environmental governance and development in DRC, as he recounts stories about the chukudu, giant wooden scooters that have been crucial to the development of the city of Goma in DRC.

    Chukudu. Bicycle. RD Congo, s.d. Wood, rubber, metal. Inv. RENO.332.

  • #7: Unraveling the notes and scribbles in a linguist’s field notebook

    What do linguists do when they are on the field? In this episode, contemporary linguist Maud Devos gives us some insight on how her predecessors learned Bantu languages in the 1950ies.

    A.E. Meeussen. Notes on Lega language. 1950ies. Inv. RENO.312.

  • #6: What can a lion’s skull teach us about population genetics?

    In this episode we look straight down the maw of a lion. We scrutinize a lion’s skull and learn about population genetics in the context of Tanzanian lions with molecular biologist Nathalie Smitz. 

    Skull of Felis leo bleyenberghi (holotype). Katanga province, DR Congo, ca. 1920. Inv. R.G. 1220.

  • #5: Volcano maps and trying to predict eruptions

    How can we improve early warning systems to detect eruptions long before they happen? In this episode we get hot with magma lakes and active volcanoes in the Virunga region with geologist Benoît Smets.

    Thonnard, R.L.G., Denaeyer, M.E., Antun, P., 1965. Virunga Volcanological Map, Sheet No. 1: Western group. Scale 1/50,000, National Centre for Volcanology, Ministry of National Education and Culture, Belgium.

  • #4: A new life: aided by conservation, a dance costume moves again

    In this episode, we marvel at a dance costume once used by the Pende population in Congo. Object conservator Siska Genbrugge talks about the challenges that her team encountered during the conservation and restoration of this intricate piece. 

    Dance costume. Katanga, DR Congo [Pende]. Collected by Albert Maesen, 1953. Inv. EO.1953.74.5400.

  • #3: A fish tale from Lake Edward

    Why would a fish get rid of its teeth on purpose? In this episode, things get fishy! We talk about weird habits developed by fish in Lake Edward, and get up close to evolution in the making with fish biologist Nathan Vranken.

    Haplochromis relictidens. Lake Edward, Uganda. inv. RMCA 2017.006.P.007.

  • #2: From log to timber in the Congolese rainforest

    We look at the giant log of an immensely popular timber species. In this episode, we tackle the heavy business of finding a delicate balance between the international timber trade and sustainable forest management with expert Nils Bourland (RMCA, Center for International Forestry Research and Research & Solutions Development).

    Afrormosia. Stem disc. Compagnie Forestière de Transformation (CFT), Province Orientale, DR Congo. S.d. Wood (Pericopsis elata). Gift from CFT, 2015. Inv. TW6882.

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    #1: Things are not always what they seem: a Central African Tutankhamun’s grave

    How can archaeologists interpret what they see, and also what they don’t see? We dig deep into the story of a Central African grave with archaeologist Alexandre Livingstone-Smith.

    Reconstruction of grave T53. Very rich burial from the Classic Kisalian period. Sanga, Upemba, Haut-Lomami, DR Congo. Kisalian Culture 900-1200 AD. Earthenware, metals (iron, copper), stone, bone. Excavation J. Nenquin, 1957. PO.0.0.79491-PO.0.0.79565