Papua and West Papua (Indonesia) Collection

Just over a third of the collections we hold from the island of New Guinea are from Papua and West Papua (Indonesia). Apart from eight Humboldt Bay items this material was collected by Robert Mitton in the early-mid 1970s.

The strength of the collection is material from the Central Highlands region acquired from various Dani groups (222 items). From the Southern region the collection includes intricately and distinctively carved objects of the Asmat peoples (134 items). There are smaller numbers of items from other parts including the Paniai and Northeast regions and Lake Sentani. Significantly, Mitton recorded detailed geographic and cultural provenance and regularly recorded the names of artists and prior owners as well as the language names of many of the pieces he collected.

Robert Mitton initially worked in the mining industry, however his collecting interests led to a greater concern for the diverse cultures of the region as he went on to serve as a cultural consultant to the PNG National Museum and Cultural Council. A keen photographer, Mitton took hundreds of photographs during his work and travels. Those in the Macleay collection include many of the Indigenous people he met, their villages, gardens, daily life and ceremonial events.

 HP.2010.10.392 © Sydney University Museums
Djagus, exchange blade owned by Dadik. Walalimo village, Papua. Collected 1971 (ET80.214) Dani women soaking banana-palm fibre in salt well, 1970s. Iluerainma, Southern Baliem Valley, Papua (HP2010.10.392). Photographer: Robert Mitton, 35mm slide. ©Sydney University Museums