De-colonized collecting: The Australian museum in the lower Sepik (1988)

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Ought de-colonized museum research, collecting and curatorial practices be dismissed as "moves to innocence "? Or, can they be seen as credible and authentic gestures toward a redefinition of moral relations with indigenous peoples and cultures from whom ethnographic collections were originally made? This article analyzes a case study of "de-colonized" museum collecting and research practices by way of thinking about this issue. It focuses on the Australian Museums "Sepik Documentation Project" (1988). I argue that this project enacted a de-colonized mode of collection that emphasized status inclusivity and acknowledged the legitimacy of indigenous trade relationships and knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-143
Number of pages13
JournalJournal de la Societe des Oceanistes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
he research from which this article is derived was conducted collaboratively by Kathleen Barlow, Lissant Bolton, Smith Jakai, James Kaparo, John Sauma, the late Kem Saupe, the late Mu-rakau Wino and myself. It was funded by he Australian Museum, the National Museum and Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea and he Wil-ford Fund for Research in the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota. he clarity of the article, such as it is, beneitted a bit from a detailed reading by a generous anonymous reader. hanks also to Markus Schindlbeck, Philippe Pel-tier and Christian Kaufmann for organizing this useful project.


  • De-colonized research
  • Lower Sepik
  • Material culture
  • Museum collecting
  • Papua New Guinea


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