The Howitt collection at Museum Victoria includes some of the most significant early ethnographic descriptions of Victorian Aboriginal people. While Howit collected very few Aboriginal objects (only 26 in total) his manuscript material is very large (923 manuscripts). The Howitt manuscripts at Museum Victoria represent about half of the Howitt Papers, with the remainder being lodged with the State Library of Victoria. The five wax cylinder recordings made by Howitt (circa 1902) are also extremely valuable as they capture the voices and songs of Victorian Aboriginal people in some of the earliest ethnographic audio recordings made in Australia.

In the field of anthropology A.W. Howitt was an important mentor to Walter Baldwin Spencer, a former Director of the Melbourne Museum and author of several highly influential volumes on Aboriginal people. The two men appear to have shared theire research papers and following Howitt's death in 1908, Spencer encouraged his family to donate his anthropological research to the Museum.

In addition to Howitt’s work on Aboriginal people, Museum Victoria also holds some materials relating to his involvement in the Burke and Wills Victorian Relief Expedition and other personal papers. There is also a collection of 133 fossils and natural history specimens, notebooks on geology and letters between Howitt and Frederick McCoy on the geology of East Gippsland.

References

Gibson, Jason, and Alison Petch. “‘The Ablest Australian Anthropologists’: Two Early Anthropologists and Oxford.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 5, no. 3 (2013).

Mary Howitt Walker (1971) Come wind, come weather; a biography of Alfred Howitt, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press.

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