Hmong laos story cloth from the World Cultures collection

World cultures

Delve into Queensland Museum’s unique World Cultures Collection and be amazed by wonderous objects, that represent inspiring cultures around the world.


The World Cultures Collection comprises of material culture that represents South-East Asia, Greater Asia, South-West Asia, North Africa, South Africa, North America, South America and Europe. The objects vary greatly in size, form and technologies from textiles, weapons, personal adornments, fetish and religious ornaments, musical instruments, domestic and agricultural utensils, animal husbandry, currency, ceramics, sculptures, artworks, ornaments, documents, photographs and ephemera.

These Collections have been acquired through exchange, transfer and cultural gifts from Governments, national and international universities, museums and collecting institutions.

Scientific study

Queensland Museum World Cultures Collection, are reflective of the colonial ideals of nineteenth and early twentieth century social evolutionists, who worked in the realm of classification and ordering of cultures and societies. A strong tradition of collecting among colonial officials and administrators, teachers, missionaries and cultural tourists, is a key acquisition source, attributed to the beginnings of the museum’s World Cultures Collections. Contemporary additions to the collection are responsive to the cultural agency and self-determination of the cultural owners of the material culture Queensland Museum is custodian of.


Collection highlights

The World Cultures Collection comprises around 6,174 registered objects and 460 photographs.

Key collections from private collectors include F.C Wildash 1870s and 1880s donations, comprising Japanese religious, personal adornments, ornamental and utilitarian artefacts, and the Dr Paul B. de Rautenfeld Series, donations from the mid-to-late 1920’s, comprised of Chinese religious, personal adornments, ornamental and utilitarian artefacts, including a rare and valuable, carved Rhinoceros horn, Libation Cup.

The African collections containing a sub-collection off Nigerian material culture, collected by Mining Engineer, Vicars William Boyle, A. C. Walkenden, Mrs G Rogers and Dr Richard Chapman, map an ethno-historic acquisition spanning a timeframe of early 1900s to early 2000s.

Of note, is the Inuit material culture collection acquired by exchange, from Glenbow Alberta Institute, in 1976 and built on from, John Tyman collection, in 1989.

The Chinese Kwong Sang Collection donation and purchase of shop stock and household items belonging to the Tai Mun Lum family who operated the Kwong Sang retail business (est.1883) in Toowoomba, contains around 2000 items including costumes, business signs, records, ephemera, shop stock, furniture, ceramics, bronze ware, art and crafts works, documents, books, photographs and oral histories.

Also, of note and significance in the World Cultures Collection, is the 2002 donation by Charles and Kati Marson, of 830 traditional musical instruments acquired from cultures and countries across the world.

Research overview

Dr Kirsty Gillespie, Queensland Museum Honorary Research Fellow and Karen Kindt, Collection Manager, First Nations Cultures, are currently conducting research on the Charles and Kati Marson Collection.

Research includes mapping and digitising primary source documentation associated with 830 ethno-musical instruments held in the collection. This vital research seeks to capture and preserve important contextual information which is at high risk of loss, due to fragility of the documents. These documents are being retrieved and archived to benchmark industry standards, to extend their longevity in the collection holdings.

Digitisation of these documents enables information sharing with wider museum audiences and communities. The process is also forging a gateway to building community engagement with First Nation cultures, associated with the traditional musical instruments, through shared knowledge, interpretation and future co-curation projects.



2017 World Science Festival – ‘Collection Curiosities’ unveiled the role of collection managers at Queensland Museum. The exhibit showcased their favourite objects held in the collections, such as H120 Shells with Buddha relief; N1968 Chinese knife money, dated from 1122 to 224 BC; N1959 Chinese hat money, dated to 9 AD.

2018 World Science Festival - ‘Meet a QM Expert’ revealed the knowledge and expertise held by collection managers and curators, as they discussed and showed unique and unusual objects from the collections, such as custom confiscated objects H18444 & H18445 Carved ivory tusks; and two exchange objects acquired from the 1976 Glenbow Alberta Institute, Inuit objects E10279 Dog sled whip and E10721 Dog sled rein toggles.

2020 I Do: Weddings Wedding Stories from Queensland – Exhibited wedding gowns and objects including a H31504 Hmong story cloth; H30008 Chinese wedding gown; H1721 Glory box; and H31218 Hmong wedding ensemble, held in the World Cultures Collection.

2019 –2022 ‘Iridescent: ‘The World of Mother of Pearlshell’ - showcased iconic and rare objects held in the World Cultures Collection including H8129 Carved pearlshell ornaments; H81 Japanese artist box; H120 Shells with Buddha reliefs.


  • Queensland Museum ‘Antenna’, June 2017, Issue 46 - ‘A few of our favourite things’ by Karen Kindt.

Find out more

Did you know you don't have to come to the museum to see our collection?

Over 5,000 items of our Cultures & Histories collection are now accessible online for free. All you need is your device and a little bit of inspiration to explore Queensland’s cultural and natural heritage.

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