The Hanna Astrup Larsen Collection

The Hanna Astrup Larsen Collection of Zulu Material Culture

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 and was home schooled by her mother. Through Norwegian American connections, Hanna was given the opportunity in January 1897, at the age of 24, to join her sister Marie in South Africa at a Zulu Mission Station while accompanied by her uncle and aunt. 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.

Ethnographic Collection

Items donated by Hanna Astrup Larsen were given to the collection on 22 October, 1900. There are a total of 77 objects that are part of the Zulu collection from Natal, South Africa.

View the collection of Zulu materials through the online catalog.


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 objects that related to domestic life, particularly ones representing everyday events. Instead of focusing on weapons or objects of strange fascination, Hanna was captivated by those that had everyday significance and that represented the Zulu culture. She had the mind of a Cultural Anthropologist and an Ethnographer.