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Alfred Cort Haddon, who was an eminent scholar of Oceania, acted as Advisory Curator to the Horniman between 1903 and 1915. The core of the Pacific collections was assembled under his guidance. They contain material from all the region's three sub-areas, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, with a particularly strong focus on Papua New Guinea. Although consisting of only some 3,000 artefacts, these collections are distinguished by the particularly fine quality of the objects and the important source collections from which many of them were derived.

Within the Pacific collection there are notable holdings from the Bismarck Archipelago, two chalk figures and five tatuana masks from New Ireland, extensive Papuan Gulf material including gope boards, items of personal decoration and so on. The collection contains two Solomon Island canoes, three particularly fine anthropomorphic prow ornaments, a Cook Island canoe and models and canoe attachments from elsewhere in the Pacific.

The Horniman also holds a collection of Baining masks from the 1950s and 1970s used in night ceremonies and a well documented field collection, including video footage and photographic documentation, of 13 uvol headdresses from the Melkoy people. This last collection is one of only two of its type in the United Kingdom and forms part of the original van Bussal collection shared between the Museum of African and Oceanic Art, Paris, the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Stuttgart and the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter.

With few exceptions, the items in the Pacific collections are of outstanding quality. The range of ancestor figures, masks, ceremonial boards and other items together provide a solid general survey of traditional art and material culture from the region.

Oceania in the World Gallery

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