The Pacific Cultures Collection comprises around 20,000 artefacts and over 8,000 images from Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. With its roots primarily in nineteenth and early twentieth century British colonialism, the collection reflects the history of the early colonial administrations, early exploration, the establishment of missions, and the experience of the region during and between the two World Wars. The collection is also associated with key individuals including administrators like Ernest Chinnery and Sir William McGregor, notable anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski and Captain George Pitt Rivers, and other identities such as the Melbourne-based photographer, J.W. Lindt.
The Pacific Cultures collection is significant due to its antiquity and size, strong supporting documentation, and its representativeness of island nations of the Pacific. Important sub-collections include: material from Aotearoa New Zealand and Fiji; rare collections such as the 22 objects from the Cook Islands, examples of which do not exist anywhere else in the world; early expedition material from the Sepik, Western and Gulf Provinces of Papua New Guinea; the Australian War Museum Collection from New Guinea; and Malangan masks from New Ireland.
As global warming and other issues threaten the future of Pacific Island nations, historical collections in museums become of paramount importance to those communities as they will endure as lasting evidence of past cultural practices.