Objects of Possession

The collection of Aboriginal artifacts from the Wet Tropics of Australia, such as the iconic painted shields and woven baskets, has a long history. This project examines relationships between artifact collectors, Aboriginal producers and their descendants, museums and the state.

We aim to provide the first systematic history of ethnographic collecting in the rain-forest region of North Queensland.

The research has two components:

  1. Historical research
    We are particularly interested in archival materials (diaries, letters, etc) and published materials that tell us about the transactions between the early European collectors and the Aboriginal producers of the artifacts they collected. We aim to trace how the objects took on different value/s as they changed hands form the producers to the collectors to the museums.
  2. Ethnographic research
    We are interested in exploring the significance of these museum objects for Aboriginal people today in terms of cultural heritage. This component of the research project includes an exploration of the way contemporary Aboriginal artists engage with museum artifacts in the production of their works.

The full title of the project is: Objects of Possession: Artefact Transactions in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, 187-2013. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC Discovery Grant). The Chief Investigators are all members of the College of Arts, Society and Education at James Cook University and are linked to ‘Culture, Agency and Change’ research program at the Cairns Institute.

The Research Team

The research team includes the
following Chief Investigators:
The research team also includes
two Senior Research Associates:
There is a PhD research scholarship
linked to this project:
Prof Rosita Henry

Dr Shelley Greer

Prof Russell McGregor

Prof Ton Otto

Dr Michael Wood

Dr Corinna Erckenbrecht

Dr Maureen Fuary

Also associated with the project are
Material Culture/Museum anthropologist and curator

Dr Maria Wronska-Friend

Former Senior Curator, Cultures &
Histories at the Queensland Museum

Ms Trish Barnard

PhD candidate: Mr Bärd Aaberge

Indigenous Research Associates
participating as part of the  Consultative Group include:

Ms Rhonda Brim

Ms Rhonda Duffin

Mr Roy Gibson

Mr George Skeene