Dr Winterbotham with the Collection, c. 1955
Dr Winterbotham with the Collection, c. 1955

The Museum was formed in 1948 by Dr Lindsey Winterbotham’s donation of his own collection of over 1,000 objects, prior to the establishment of an Anthropology Department at the University. Added to over the years with bequests, donations, purchases and student and staff contributions, the Museum continues to grow.

The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum was established largely through the efforts of Dr Lindsey Page Winterbotham, a medical practitioner and lecturer in medical ethics. In 1948, the University formally accepted the donation of Winterbotham’s private collection of over 1,000 artefacts with a view to using it to support studies and teaching in anthropology, a discipline yet to be established in Queensland at that time. The appointment of Dr Winterbotham as Honorary Curator of Ethnological Specimens was confirmed by the University Senate in 1949.

Image of a black and white mask from East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea  
Carved face
Unknown maker(s)
930 x 340 mm wood, plant fibre, paint
East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Purchased from Mr Des Bartlett, 1954
 

Winterbotham’s collection formed the foundation of the Museum, its breadth reflecting his diverse interests. He collected not only the decorative or the ceremonial, but also things of everyday use and individual curiosity. His scientific interest in cultures across Indigenous Australia and Papua New Guinea included items of great craftsmanship and aesthetic quality. His initial collection was soon supplemented by a donation of 400 items from the Anthropological Society of Queensland.

Winterbotham spent the next ten years energetically building up a museum. Support came from a variety of sources, both from within the University and from the general public. Medical doctors, missionaries and government agents across Australia and the Pacific were approached to collect for the Museum. Advertisements run in local and state newspapers requesting donations also drew a substantial response; the Museum’s collection grew to over 10,000 items over a decade largely through public donations.

The initial allocation of three drawers in the School of Anatomy was insufficient to cope with the rapid influx of objects. Further space was designated for installation of public exhibitions, but it was only in 1957 that sufficient space became available to store the entire collection on campus. The Museum moved to its current purpose-built facilities in 1972. 
 
The Museum quickly grew to be a unique resource beyond its initial intent. Under subsequent Directors the collection and exhibition program was broadened to represent dynamic contemporary Indigenous Australian and Pacific cultures. Substantial field collections by Museum and University researchers offered richer perspectives and opportunities for collaboration. Programs such as the Aboriginal Cultural Resource Unit, traineeships and artists-in-residence ensure that the cultural property held within the Museum remains accessible and connected to communities of origin.

Based on an unpublished history compiled by Annabelle Stewart-Zerba and Leo, D. 2008 “An Ark of Aboriginal Relics: The Collecting Practices of Dr L.P. Winterbotham”, in The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections, eds, N. Peterson, L. Allen and L. Hamby, Melbourne University Press, Carlton.

 

 

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