The Anthropology museum collection is unique in part because of Brisbane’s position as Australia’s gateway to the Pacific. The bulk of the collection represents a time of great transformation in the lives of colonized peoples. There were many colonial business interests that took Queenslanders to the ‘South Seas’ and many Pacific peoples who have made Queensland their home. The Queensland labour trade was one facet of this migration.

The uniqueness of the Anthropology Museum collection also resides in its academic aspect. UQ staff and students have added to the collection of founder Dr L. P. Winterbotham.  This aspect gives the collection a different flavour to that of a state Museum. 
The Anthropology Museum offers the potential for projects by people seeking to investigate their own cultural heritage and for academic projects both at UQ and elsewhere.

Research approaches based on the collection


Maker(s) unrecorded
Fishing float
560 x 104 mm wood, stone, plant fibre string, bamboo
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Donated by Mrs Jean Herbert, 2011

Museum objects with their material presence offer evidence of cultural and social change, often evidence that cannot be obtained from other sources. Why is an object made from these particular materials and not some others? Where did the materials come from, were they traded in? Is the object a prototype? Why are there so many examples of one type of objects in the collection? When a small scale society changes from using sculpture locally for religious purposes to saleable works how do material changes manifest social change? How does its materiality manifest its agency?
Secondly there are projects that begin with the collector - UQAM has some large collections that were donated by one individual. What was the role of this person in the world? How did they collect and what were they trying to represent through their collection? What kind of relationships did the collection embody?
Cultural heritage
Museum collections contain things from the past that have outlived everyone originally connected with them. Contemporary things collected now will do the same. The museum is a  fieldwork site that can provide living people to participate in the past which in turn offers the potentials for knowledge and cultural renewal and the material for new creative projects alongside formal and informal research. 

Mr J. W. Beattie, c. 1890 
B & W photograph
Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands
Donated by Mrs Eileen Rannie, 1982
Visual Culture
The photographic collection of more than 6500 images offers manifold rich seams for research aside from merely offering contextual historical information that can in itself be invaluable. 
Who were those in the photograph, how can we trace an individual’s identity? Who was the photographer? What relationship did the parties have? What kind of circulation did the image have? What role might it now play in the community where it was created?


Suggested research projects 2014-15

  • Archaeology Honours projects on the lithic material and photography from the 1962 Tugby excavation at Cathedral Cave in west central Queensland. 
  • The Rannie papers, an as yet unexplored collection relating to ‘Blackbirding’ for the Queensland labour trade would provide suitable material for a PhD. 
  • An exploration of the question ‘Why are there so many spears in museum collections’? 
  • The Watt collection of medicines from east Africa that remains un-researched. This would be great material for a PhD in medical anthropology. 
  • The social and cultural significance of the changing designs painted on bark cloths made in Oro province, PNG would provide several projects at levels from undergraduate to post doctoral and beyond. 
  • The study of the collection of Sir Samuel Griffith is a superb opportunity for a PhD student.
  •  A doctoral or post doctoral study of a collection of paintings made by Abelam men in the 1960s


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