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South Australian Museum - Pacific Cultures Gallery

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Paipo posted on Tue, Nov 4, 2008 9:46 PM

Name:South Australian Museum - Pacific Cultures Gallery
Street:North Terrace
City:Adelaide, South Australia
Phone:61-8-8207 7500


This remarkable exhibition of the material cultures of the Pacific had its origin when the North Wing of the Museum opened in 1895. Artefacts on display come from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon and Santa Cruz Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand.

Approximately 3000 bows and arrows, spears, shields, utensils, ornaments, masks and ritual objects are displayed in the original wall cases and flat cases. This is the largest exhibition of Pacific material in Australia and second only to Auckland in the southern hemisphere. The Pacific Gallery is being preserved as an example of 19th century museum display, essentially visual storage.

On Saturday 2 December 2006 Mike Rann, the Premier of South Australia, reopened the newly renovated and refurbished Pacific Cultures Gallery. After eight months of work the Victorian lantern ceiling has now been revealed and the heritage listed display cases returned to their former glory.

[ Edited by: Paipo 2008-11-04 21:47 ]

Paipo posted on Tue, Nov 4, 2008 10:22 PM

Disclaimer: I did find another thread about the SA Museum but the images were broken, the location was misspelt, and the thread had devolved into a discussion of the merits of various Aussie beers, so I figured this place deserved a fresh start...

This is the first collection of Oceanic Art I ever encountered - I grew up in Adelaide, and the museum and zoo were like a second home to me as a kid. The last time I was back in Adelaide the collection was still in an identical state to what I remembered from my childhood, and after years of viewing the dimly lit perspex enclosures that have become the norm in most modern museums, the Victorian style "Curio Cabinet" presentation was quite refreshing. A major refurbishment has since occurred without changing the essential character of the display, although the lighting made it very difficult to get good direct shots of many of the objects.

This is a truly great collection of Melanesian art - something we don't see much of in NZ as the museums here tend to favour Polynesian works. There are a handful of fine Maori pieces, which I suspect may be connected to George Grey who was Governor of both New Zealand and South Australia. As the website mentions, this is the collection of Oceanic art in Australia and is a must-see if you are going to visit SA!

Apologies for the lack of captions - I had barely half an hour to look around before closing time, and my familiarity with Melanesian art isn't that great. I will add information as I find the time (and work out what some of the pieces were!)

Enjoy! (pics follow next post....)

[ Edited by: Paipo 2008-11-05 02:22 ]

Paipo posted on Tue, Nov 4, 2008 11:00 PM

The first thing you see when ascending the stairs from the ground floor - both sides are flanked by these Maori panel carvings:

Stepping into the centre of the room, there is a longhouse surrounded by old-school museum cabinets. Further down is a Baining mask and a HUGE dance mask/costume in its own cabinet. This shot also shows the restored Victorian lantern ceiling, which I'm pretty sure was covered over when I used to visit in the 70s-80s...

A longer shot of the entire room:

Most of the walls are covered with these Victorian style cabinets, which are crammed full of amazing artifacts. Somewhat cluttered, yes - but in most museums many of these objects would be considered duplicates (especially the weapons) and consigned to the storage room. This style of display allows the keen student to compare subtle differences between similar objects!

Paipo posted on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 2:14 AM

Excellent, excellent! Love the old style displays. Said it many times here before, but again, many of the decor concepts of mid-century Tiki temples were inspired by museum displays, like the wall weapon arrangements here:

Great photos paipo! I see some Malaagan's and some pieces from new ireland, Solomons, etc. I recognize from school.

Bigbro, Great observation point about the museum cum tikibar decor, groupings, ceiling hangings, very astute observation.


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