Project & Partners

The Pacific Collections Review was a 20 month partnership project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which began in April 2013. The project aimed to reconnect dispersed Pacific collections held in museums across Scotland with their histories.

The four core partner museums were National Museums Scotland, Aberdeen University Museums, Glasgow Life, and Perth Museum & Art Gallery. The team studied Pacific collections in all four museums and documented stories that emerged both within and across the collections, and identified areas for further research.

You can contact Eve Haddow, Assistant Curator who worked on the project by email on

The Partner Museums:

The University of Aberdeen:
The University of Aberdeen’s ethnographic collections from the Pacific reflect the activities of travellers, collectors and alumni from Aberdeen. Some of the earliest items in the collection were donated by Captain Christopher Nockells, who graduated from Kings College in 1816 and collected Maori artefacts and other items from Polynesia. Colonial activity is represented by material collected by colonial administrators, such as Arthur JL Gordon (Fiji) and William MacGregor (Fiji and New Guinea), and Lord and Lady Stonehaven (New Guinea and Australia). Missionary activity is exemplified by the collections of Frederick Bowie and Jeannie Mutch who went to Vanuatu in the 1890s. As with some other donors, their collection also includes personal notebooks and photographs.

You can search University of Aberdeen museum collections here

Glasgow Museums:
Glasgow Museums Pacific collection contains just over 3000 objects from across the region collected from the late 18th century to the present day, including a significant number of rare or unique artefacts of historical interest. The earliest object is a Maori free-standing ancestral figure, one of only six acknowledged to exist, brought to Britain after 1780 by Midshipman Samuel Folker. Also in the collection are the only known surviving ceremonial turtle posts from Dauar Island, part of a large donation from Torres Straits and Papua New Guinea gifted by Robert Bruce in 1889. Bruce was a Glasgow ship’s engineer and London Missionary Society teacher who lived and worked on Mer Island with his family.

In addition to historical artefacts, the collection boasts fine examples of contemporary Pacific art including the only collection of works in a UK institution by renowned Chimbu artist Mathias Kauage OBE of Papua New Guinea, and important pieces by artists such as Alick Tipoti of Torres Strait Islands.

Access Glasgow Museums Collections Navigator and view details of their Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian collections here

National Museums Scotland:
There are around 5000 objects from the Pacific in the World Cultures collection of NMS. The collection has its beginnings in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the University of Edinburgh Natural History Museum and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. It contains early voyage material including objects from the journeys of Captain James Cook (1772-79) and Captain Beechey (1825-28).

Since the founding of the Royal Museum in 1854, Pacific material has been actively collected through links with Scottish soldiers, missionaries, traders, explorers and emigrants. The collection encompasses domestic material, clothing and personal ornament, textiles (including an extensive collection of barkcloth), weapons, tools, model boats and musical instruments. Particular objects are associated with important individuals, such as Tahitian artefacts from the late 19th century brought to Scotland by Princess Titaua of Tahiti after her marriage to George Darsie of Fife. The museum continues to acquire both historical and contemporary material.

Find out more about ‘Facing the Sea’ at National Museums Scotland, a gallery devoted to Pacific cultures here

Perth museum & Art Gallery:
The World Cultures collection of Perth Museum & Art Gallery was begun by the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society and substantially amassed in the nineteenth century. The far travelled surgeons, sea captains, travellers and entrepreneurs of Perth collected wherever they travelled and sent things back to their home town for study and display. The key collector of Pacific material was surgeon David Ramsay, active throughout the 1820s and 1830s. He collected nearly 40 objects including many objects from New Zealand, as well as artefacts from Fiji and the Society Islands. Of particular note from the Ramsay collection are a unique Maori kakapo feather cloak , and a rare Tahitian mourner’s costume.

View the website devoted to Perth Museum and Art Gallery here–Art-Gallery


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