Cultural material from around the world is represented in our internationally important ethnography collection. Of more than 4,000 items, the majority form the Brenchley Collection, with particular emphasis upon the cultures of the Pacific (Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand), Melanesia, the Pacific North West of Canada and the U.S.A., and the Alaskan Eskimo.
This material, including the beautiful Solomon Island canoe, was collected during the travels of Julius Brenchley, a Victorian Gentleman Explorer and local collector who left Maidstone in 1845 to travel the world. Most of the next 28 years were spent abroad building the fabulous collections which he bequeathed to the museum in 1873. The rest of the Brenchley Collection is held by the British Museum.
Other material in the museums’ ethnographic collection originates from Africa, Asia, and Brazil, and includes collections from:
- Olive Temple (later Macleod): a female explorer and collector in early 20th-century Northern Nigeria, with stories of her travels published in the London Magazine
- Cecil Ireland Blackburne: a game hunter and collector who published two books in 1913/14, ‘My African Travels’ and ‘From Oriental to Occidental Africa’
- Walter Pitt: a District Commissioner for Ashanti (West African Coast) in the 1920s-30s whose collection includes the some significant Boafo Shrine figures
- Major Frederic Newnham: lived in South Africa and took an expedition to Victoria falls in 1895. Part of his collection is also held at the British Museum
To see some of the highlights from the African collection, visit the Uniques Project website – part of the ACE funded Uncovering Ethnography in Kent and Sussex project.