I'm writing about a cultural artifact that is now used as an aesthetic object in a museum but, prior to this ethnographic view, was used as a ceremonial object. I'm looking for a term that refers to this initial use. (I'd use it for a section heading.)
To clarify from the comments, I am looking for a single, detached term/noun particularly because "original purpose/use" can connote that the object has lost that first intent. In my case, the object was really just stolen and could still be used for its original intent if someone were returned to its creators.
In a sentence: "While the mask today is appreciated for its aesthetic qualities, its [original usage or first intention] was as a ceremonial totem."