Excavating Macgregor: re-connecting a colonial museum collection

Image: 'Native dance at Port Moresby', Annual Report on British New Guinea July 1897-June 1898

Sensing the impacts of colonisation, the first Administrator of British New Guinea William MacGregor made a significant collection of objects between 1888 and 1898, specifically for its future citizens. This comprehensive legacy of 13000 objects did not remain in the country but was dispersed to three Australian and six overseas museums. Our aim is to re-assemble and re-connect this material by 'excavating' its private and official components. This research will focus on the makers and traders to disentangle the social relationships embedded in the objects. Using material-centred, assemblage-based archaeological approaches we will investigate how indigenous groups used objects to negotiate with the new colonial government.

Excavating MacGregor is a collaborative research initiative generously funded by the Australian Research Council with University of Sydney, Australian Museum and Queensland Museum.

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