Taonga Maori in the British Museum

Taonga Maori in the British Museum
For the first time a book that catalogues the more than 2,300 Maori cultural items held in the British Museum is being published.


For the first time a book that catalogues the more than 2,300  Maori cultural items held in the British Museum is being published.

The book came about as a result of a promise made after a major exhibition, “Maori: Art and Culture”, held in the British Museum in 1998. The promise was to publish “a definitive catalogue to show exactly what items are in the British Museum and what is known by the Museum about them.”

Taonga Maori in the British Museum, is the result of over a decade’s research by leading specialists from both New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It is being published in Aotearoa by Te Papa Press.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, says “The Maori collections are among the most frequently visited in the department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. We hope this catalogue will be useful, most of all, to Maori. There is still much research to be done, for example on the Cook Collection, the material acquired from the Royal United Services Institution, or the Wellcome Collection, and we would welcome any corrections or additional information about the catalogued items.”

The collection began with items obtained during Captain James Cook’s three voyages of exploration. Other items were collected and sold or gifted to the Museum by colonial administrators, missionaries, members of the British armed forces, or their descendants. Consequently the collection contains mainly small, easily portable objects, and includes woodcarvings, model canoes and paddles, domestic equipment, cloaks, baskets, jewellery, musical instruments, ceremonial objects, fishing and hunting equipment, tools and weapons. Some of the items are believed to be the only examples of their kind remaining in existence.

The collection reflects the individual collectors’ personal tastes at a time when curators were interested mainly in completing series of objects of similar types, and were less concerned with the provenance of those items.

About the authors:

Dorota Starzecka is a former curator of the Oceanic collections at the British Museum.

Dr. Roger Neich was formerly curator of Ethnology at Auckland War Memorial Museum and Professor of Anthropology in the University of Auckland.

Mick Pendergrast was formerly Assistant Ethnologist at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Both Neich and Pendergrast died in 2010.

Editors note:

The three voyages of Captain James Cook, on which Maori artefacts were collected, took place in 1768–71, 1772–5, and 1776–80.  

The larger (sail), shown in colour plate 2 of the book, is one of the items that is thought to be the only one of its kind still in existence. Expert weaver Rira Smith, of Te Aupauri, Pohutiare, Te Rarawa, and Ngati Kuri, used the r? as a model to create a copy, named Honore, that is displayed in the Mana Whenua exhibition at Te Papa.  Honore’s dimensions are 4460mm in height and 2400mm at its widest point. Honore took a month to make.

This catalogue contains all the information known to the authors, about the collection items, at the time of writing. The British Museum acknowledges that both the catalogue and the online database may contain errors, and welcomes any comments, corrections, or additional information about the items.

The collection contains over 2,300 items. This catalogue does not include any unworked bones, ventifacts, or material acquired since 2000.

Further information: 

Taonga Maori in the British Museum is available to purchase online at www.tepapastore.co.nz. A database of the collection is available online through the British Museum’s website. 

Taonga Maori in the British Museum, by Dorota C. Starzecka, Roger Neich, Mick Pendergrast, is published in Aotearoa by Te Papa Press, March 2011.   

RRP NZ$99.99 ISBN: 978-1-877385-76-6

Te Papa Press is New Zealand’s unique museum publisher, creating popular non-fiction books about New Zealand’s art, culture, and natural world for museum visitors and readers everywhere. To see our other books visit www.tepapapress.co.nz

For further information contact:

Kathryn Carmody, Te Papa Press publicist:

Tel. 027 287 7963 or 04 385 7070

Email. kathryn.carmody@gmail.com


A spokesperson for the British Museum can be available for comment by contacting:

Sarah Morgan, British Museum, Marketing & Publicity Executive:

Tel. 0044 20 7079 0946

Email. smorgan@britishmuseum.co.uk

Visit. www.britishmuseum.org


For trade orders, with a discount for quantity, contact:

Sue Beaton, Te Papa Press, Sales & Marketing:

Tel. 04 381 7470

Email. sueb@tepapa.govt.nz

Written by

Te Papa

1 Mar 2011