The most prominent piece is the celebrated feather headdress featuring hundreds of long quetzal feathers and over a thousand gold plaques. This headdress is the only one of its kind still preserved, and has become something of an iconic artefact of the Weltmuseum Wien. In the course of a joint Austrian-Mexican research project lasting from 2010 to 2012, the headdress was examined, carefully cleaned, and restored.
Both the Armoury and the Chamber of Art and Curiosities were assembled by Archduke Ferdinand II, Count of Tyrol, and were held in high esteem throughout Europe. In 1596, one year after Ferdinand’s death, an inventory of his collections was compiled. Listed in the inventory and now found at the Museum, the American Indian feather objects from what is now Mexico are of particular importance to the Weltmuseum Wien.
The piece has been referred to as “Montezuma’s Crown” for a long time – a title that turned out to be a misnomer. On the contrary, it rather served as the headdress of a priest. Although it remains unclear how the piece was originally acquired, there have always been demands to have it returned to Mexico. After years of research as part of a bilateral cooperation project, even conservators from Mexico had to conclude that the “Penacho” could not be transported without severe damage of the fragile feathers. Nevertheless, there are still individual voices that feel obliged to demand its return to Mexico.
The North and Central America Collection is composed of almost 18,000 objects, half of which are archaeological artefacts. Aside from Mexico, it focuses on the vast area of the Great Lakes as well as the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, where Captain James Cook collected numerous important artefacts.