New Guinea locals standing on a porch.

Excavating MacGregor

Re-connecting a colonial museum collection
Awakening interest in a highly significant collection of late 19th century objects from Papua New Guinea.

About the project

Sensing the impacts of colonisation, the first Administrator of British New Guinea, William MacGregor, made a significant collection of objects between 1888 and 1898, specifically for its future citizens. This comprehensive legacy of 13,000 objects did not remain in the country but was dispersed to three Australian and six overseas museums.

Our aim is to re-assemble and re-connect this material by 'excavating' its private and official components. This research will focus on the makers and traders to disentangle the social relationships embedded in the objects. Using material-centred, assemblage-based archaeological approaches, we will investigate how indigenous groups used objects to negotiate with the new colonial government.

  • Dr Annie Clarke, Lead Investigator, University of Sydney
  • Dr Jude Philp, Chief Investigator, University of Sydney
  • Dr Robin Torrence, Partner Investigator, Australian Museum
  • Chantal Knowles, Partner Investigator, Queensland Museum/Monash University
  • Dr Elizabeth Bonshek, Research Associate
  • Dr Pam Swadling, Research Associate, Australian National University
  • Susie Davis, Research Associate
  • Kiri Chan, Research Associate
  • Michael Quinnell, Mentor, Queensland Museum

Excavating MacGregor is a collaborative research initiative generously funded by the Australian Research Council with the University of Sydney, the Australian Museum and Queensland Museum.

Logo for Australian Research Council.

Featured image (top of the page): Vatorata LMS missonary training college, Port Morsbey c.1900 (crop)