Solomon Islands Collection

Spoons © Sydney University Museums

Spoons, Uki Island, Makira Province, Solomon Islands. Collected August 1865 by J W Brazier during HMS Curacoa expedition (ETD.765, ETD.760). Image: R Lawrence © Sydney University Museums

There are close to 300 cultural objects from the Solomon Islands in the Macleay Museums collections. We hold material identified as being from Makira, Isabel, Malaita, Guadalcanal, Central, Western and Temotu Provinces. The collection includes arrows, canoe paddles and ornaments, spoons, containers, basketry, shell money, and body adornments such as necklaces, arm bands and combs. Many of the cultures of the Solomons archipelago produce highly distinctive types of objects and art however there are certain types of items that are more widespread. Items without specific provenance are the subject of on-going research.

The collections from the Solomon Islands include material transferred to the Macleay from the University of Sydney, Geography Department in the 1960s. Material thought to date from the 1930s was transferred from the Old Teachers College more recently, including items transferred in 2012. However, most of the Solomon Island collection was part of the original Macleay bequest to the University acquired in the region during the period 1865 – 1872. John Brazier, principally a conchologist (shell specialist), is identified as the major collector of this material.

In 1865 Brazier was invited to join the HMS Curacoa South Sea Islands expedition alongside explorer and avid ‘gentleman collector’ Julius L. Brenchley, click here for an account of the journey.
The HMS Curacoa (1865) spent approximately two weeks in the Solomons as well as visiting Norfolk Island, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Brazier revisited the region on the HMS Blanche (1872). Such expeditions were part of a regular traffic of British navy visits surveying colonial interests in the region.

Community fishing, men catching fish on reef with nets, 1928 © Sydney University Museums

Community fishing, men catching fish on reef with nets, 1928. Image: I Hogbin. Anthropology Department glass lantern slide (HP99.1.1593). © Sydney University Museums

The Macleay Museum Historic photograph collection contains a number of early images from the region. These capture moments of colonial history, such as the torching of canoes by crew of the HMS Royalist c1891 and plantations set up by Burns Philp & Co in the early 20th century. There are also photos taken in the late 1920s by up-and-coming University of Sydney anthropologists, Raymond Firth and Ian Hogbin. Taken amongst the Solomon Islands communities with whom they worked, the photographs document, often in amazing detail, relationships between people and aspects of daily and ceremonial life.