Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 13

Exhibiting the MacGregor collections

Knowles, C. & Curtis, N.

Published online: 2 April 2024


Knowles, C. & Curtis, N.


Knowles, C. & Curtis, N. 2022. Exhibiting the MacGregor collections. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 13: 443–468. Brisbane.

Date published

September 2022



William MacGregor, British New Guinea, Papua New Guinea, ethnography, history of collections, exhibitions, museum.


Two extensive groups of indigenous material culture assembled by Sir William MacGregor in British New Guinea (1888–1898), the Official and Personal collections, are largely held in three museums – Queensland Museum, University of Aberdeen Museums and the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery – each of which has a distinct history. This paper explores the public lives of the collections through their inclusion in galleries and exhibitions. This comparative history of how objects have been used and interpreted is revealing as it monitors the changing roles of ethnographic collections in museums in different socio-civic contexts over the last 120 years and how that influences the perception of museums amongst their publics.

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