Region: Oceania

Captain Cook’s Barkcloth Books

photos of watercolor
A Tale of Three 18th-Century Sample Books

By: Billie Lythberg

In the Summer of 1919, George Byron Gordon, the Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, discovered a curious book in London. Small and unassuming, its neatly bound covers contained eight pages of printed catalogue followed by 43 specimens of 18th-century Polynesian barkcloth, richly colored and textured. With funds from the […]

Journeys of the Mummy Scientist

Photo of Ron and Friend
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Ronald G. Beckett

By: Page Selinsky and Paul Mitchell

Doctor Ronald Beckett is a pioneer in using minimally invasive imaging techniques, particularly endoscopy (examining the inside of the body with a lighted instrument), for the scientific study of mummies. He and his colleague, Jerry Conlogue, were also the hosts of a National Geographic reality television series The Mummy Road Show. Despite the sensationalistic title, […]

Curiosities & Commodities

Oceanian Objects From Two World’s Fairs

By: Adria H. Katz

In the fall of 2003, the Oceanian Section of the Penn Museum acquired materials from New Caledonia and the Philippines that had been exhibited at two great world’s fairs: the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 and the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. These objects came to us via the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, which, […]

An Angu Funeral in New Guinea

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Born in 1919, Ward Goodenough is a world-renowned linguist and anthropologist, who has studied the connection between language and culture in the Pacific islands for half a century. In 1951, when newly arrived at Penn, he traveled to New Guinea to seek out an area of study. The reconnaissance took him to the interior where […]

Furness in Borneo and East Asia

By: Alessandro Pezzati

William Henry Furness III, scion of a notable Philadelphia family that included architect Frank Furness and Shakespearean scholar Horace Howard Furness, traveled to Borneo on behalf of the Penn Museum in 1896–1897, together with Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., and Hiram M. Hiller. The purpose was to obtain ethnographic collections for the Museum but also to […]

History and the Birds of Paradise

Surprising Connection from New Guinea

By: Stuart Kirsch

How can a woman’s hat made in New York City (ca. 1915) and decorated with iridescent bird of paradise plumes from New Guinea affect our understanding of history? What relationships were responsible for its creation? What do such relationships reveal about New Guinea and its connections to the rest of the world? How might the […]

The World of Ancient Ancestors

Australian Aboriginal Caves and Other Realms within Rock

By: Paul S. C. Taçon

In 1986, while documenting rock painting sites in Kakadu National Park, east of Darwin in northern Australia, I came upon a remarkable cave-like shelter within a large sandstone outlier. The outlier was sitting in the middle of a vast floodplain, separated from the nearby Arnhem Land plateau. Earlier in the day I had surveyed much […]

Henri Rey

The Inventor from Tahiti

By: William Davenport

Imet Henri Rey in Tahiti in 1965. He was living in semi-retirement in the district of Pirae, about three kilometers outside Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia. With him lived two grown daughters, Pauline and Henriette, and usually several grand­daughters. A Tahitian cook from Moorea Island, called Tutu, came in daily to prepare three meals […]

Museum Mosaic – Summer 2002

: People, Places, Projects

By: Sharon Aponte Misdea

Worlds Intertwined: The Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans will open to the public in Spring 2003. The $3 million project completes the reinstallation of the permanent classical galleries at the Museum. Totally renovated, the Etruscan World and Roman World galleries and a new Introduction to the Classical World gallery exhibit more than 1,000 ancient artifacts drawn from the Museum ’s outstanding Mediterranean collection of more […]

Decorated Canoe Prow-boards from the Trobriand Islands

By: Adria H. Katz

The University Museum recently came into possession of three canoe prow-boards (Fig. I) collected in the Trobriand Islands in 1983 by Ruth Radbill Scott (see box). The Trobriands, part of the independent nation of Papua New Guinea, are one of a number of far-flung island groups lying off the southeast tip of New Guinea. The […]