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Exhibition | 2024
A Unique Woman Explorer 

Jenny Visser Hooft and her 4 Expeditions, 1922-35


Opening on 23rd May

Open until 18th June


Palay House. Phey, Ladakh


Aurélise Bouquet @early.explorations.pitctures


Quentin Devers @ladakharchaeology

Archival images sourced from

National Archives of the Netherlands

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Jenny Visser-Hooft in the Shaksgam Valley, 1935

Curator's Note

During the early twentieth century, the exploration scene of the Himalayas and more particularly that of Ladakh, was significantly busy with scores of westerners from diverse background converging every summer to explore, hunt, map, survey, research, trade, climb, or simply walk amongst the high passes, deep gorges and wide plateaux that the remote terrain of the region would offer to them. Acquiring a much sought-after permit from the British Resident in Kashmir, they would journey to Leh and thence to remote corners of the region, benefiting from Dogra regulations and codification which gave them access to inexpensive and disempowered labor.


Amongst these colonial travelers, a Dutch couple, the Visser-Hoofts, led a total of four scientific expeditions to the Western Himalayas and the Karakorum between 1922 and 1935. Three of their expeditions were in Ladakh in 1922, 1929, and 1935, and one in Gilgit-Baltistan in 1925-26.


Only few at that time conducted such repeated and extensive visits, placing Jenny Visser-Hooft  (1888-1939) and her husband, geographer Philips Christiaan Visser (1882-1955), aside in the history of the exploration of the region. 


A noteworthy and remarkable aspect is that Jenny took an integral part in organising and leading these expeditions. She was a mountaineer in her own right, as well as a versed scholar on the fauna and flora. 


While her husband authored four travel books in Dutch, one for each of their expeditions, Jenny wrote the only English-language account of their travels, Among the Kara-Korum Glaciers in 1925, published in 1926. 


When looking at her photographic archives, one can notice that each of her expeditions features a dog traveling along: Tashi Tsering in 1922,

Patiala in 1925-26 and again in 1929-30, and Jesser in 1935.


Each of these dogs were adopted by the couple in India at the beginning of an expedition, and brought back to Europe at the end. 


The couple’s photographic archives and the selection of images displayed here bear witness to the love and affection they had for each of their companions, as Jenny can be seen posing for candid pictures with them at various stages of her journeys.

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