The Polynesian collections number nearly 8,000 objects and represent almost every island group in the region. The Museum received approximately 200 items from the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and in 1897 added a 113 piece collection from Gustavus Goward from Samoa and a 300 piece collection from William Preston Harrison representing the Solomon Islands and Polynesia. In 1898 the Museum added W.T. Shephard’s 495 piece collection from mostly the Solomon Islands and Polynesia. In 1934 the Museum received a 902 piece collection collected by Templeton Crocker and in 1939 a 472 piece collection from Dr. S.M. Lambert. Both of these collections, mostly from the Solomon Islands and Polynesia, contributed significant collections from the Polynesian outliers of Rennell, Bellona, and Anuda. The most noted acquisition from Polynesia came when the Museum purchased the A. W. F. Fuller collection in 1958. His collection (including subsequent donations made by his wife Estelle) numbers over 2,681 items from the region and includes many outstanding individual objects from Easter Island, New Zealand, and Hawaii. It also includes significant collections from the Marquesas Islands, Society Islands, Austral Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.
The Museums’ collection from New Zealand is particularly noteworthy. In 1924 the Museum received a collection of over 1,500 items from T.E. Donne, Commissioner from the New Zealand Commission of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. Reportedly half of all the Maori treasures in United States museums reside at the Field Museum, including the council house, Ruatepupuke II, received in 1905; one of only three such houses outside New Zealand and the only one located in the Americas. It was first erected and exhibited in 1925 under the direction of Ralph Linton, Curator of North American, Oceanic, and Malayan ethnology from 1921-1928. The House was later reassembled between 1992 and 1993 in a grand collaboration between the Museum and Maori representatives. This event, as well as the continuing relationship between the Museum and New Zealand, stands to this day a model for the curation, conservation practice and collaboration between museums worldwide and the communities from where their collections originate.
Image above: Detail of mahau - exterior porch panels from Ruatepupuke II – wharenui – Maori meeting house from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand. Catalog Number 967.143961. © The Field Museum, A109973_15c, Photographer Ron Testa.
Image above: Detail of front of Ruatepupuke II – wharenui – Maori meeting house from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand. Catalog Number 967.143961. © The Field Museum, GN89901_5c, Photographer Mark Widhalm.
Image above: Detail of interior of Ruatepupuke II – wharenui – Maori meeting house from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand. Catalog Number 967.143961. © The Field Museum, A112522_4c, Photographers Diane Alexander White and Linda Dorman .
Image above and collection thumbnail: Fijian bark cloth (masi)from the collection of A. W. F. Fuller. Catalog Number 2616.272734. © The Field Museum, A106465c, Photographer Ron Testa.