Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 13

Troublesome objects: the travels of arrows

Philp, J.

Published online: 2 April 2024


Philp, J.


Philp, J. 2022. Troublesome objects: the travels of arrows. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 13: 351–380. Brisbane.

Date published

September 2022



arrow, bow, William MacGregor, British New Guinea, colonialism, ethnography, history, trade.


This chapter is concerned with the meanings and purposes of the highly varied arrows and bows that were collected for the Official collection from the Western Division of British New Guinea during Sir William MacGregor’s administration (1888-1898). As the data about provenance vital to their understanding has not been preserved, these objects largely remain in museum storage and unfortunately have not contributed to an understanding of the history and relationships surrounding their acquisition. Although commonly understood and displayed as weapons by colonial administrations, twentieth century research has emphasised their role in connecting disparate people through an extensive trade network and a shared mythic landscape. This focus on the uses and meanings, rather than the origin and fabrication, of arrows is discussed in the chapter to direct attention towards the events and relationships that instigated their inclusion in the Official collection.

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