Hanna Astrup Larsen was born in 1873 as the daughter of Ingeborg Astrup and Laur Larsen, Luther College's first president. She grew up in Decorah, Iowa being home schooled by her mother and in the presence of brothers and sisters. Through Norwegian American connections, Hanna was given the opportunity in January of 1897, at the age of 24, accompanied by her uncle and aunt Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Astrup, to join her sister Marie in South Africa at a Zulu Mission Station. During her three years in Zululand on the Entumeni Mission Hanna was able to gain a first hand knowledge of Zulu culture as well as a collection of objects that were later donated to Luther College. Once back in Decorah in the spring of 1900, Hanna was able to look at the world with a new cultural perspective.
Items donated by Hanna Astrup Larsen were given to the collection 22 October 1900. There are a total of 77 objects that are part of the Zulu collection from Natal, South Africa.
Hanna Larsen described Zulu life and culture in her book, Skisser Fra Zululand, published in Norwegian in 1905 and then translated into English as Sketches from Zululand, in 1994. By taking on a woman's perspective, Hanna wrote about and collected things that related to domestic life. Everyday events and objects were of interest to her. Instead of focusing on weapons, or objects of strange fascination, Hanna was captivated by objects that had everyday significance and that represented the Zulu culture. She had the mind of a Cultural Anthropologist and an Ethnographer.