Introduction to the World Cultures Collection

Minsereh figure from AfricaThe Hunterian is home to an exciting and varied collection of both natural and artificial 'curiosities', many of which are believed to have come from the voyages of Captain James Cook. Although the ethnography collection has objects from around the world, many of the 'star' objects in the collection were acquired by William Hunter from the returning Cook expeditions during the period 1771-1780. Some of these are currently on loan to the internationally acclaimed James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific exhibition. The collection was further enhanced by the donation from the Rev Dr. George Turner, a Scottish missionary, in 1860. In 1888, the surviving artefacts from the neglected Andersonian Museum at Anderson’s College, Glasgow, added another fine body of material, many pieces meticulously labelled. Although a relatively modest size, the quality of the ethnography collection is world class and includes many spectacular 'first contact' pieces. It is also home to an outstanding body of Maori carvings, one of the world’s finest earliest barkcloth collections and other bodies of unprovenanced material which are almost certainly from the Cook voyages.

The Hunterian’s ethnography collection also includes superb material from many other parts of the world. Notable objects include the map showing the two hemispheres of the world made by the Jesuit Father Ferdinand Verbiest in 1674, from William Hunter’s original collection. The Chinese jade collection, donated by Ina Smillie, includes some very fine pieces, dating from the Song (10th to 13th centuries) and more recent dynasties. Australia is represented by a body of material from the collector Emile Clement, and some fine South American artefacts come from the collection of the geologist Frederick Eck. The assemblage of ancient Peruvian pottery is also important. Finally, Africa provides the spectacular Minsereh figure, an extensive collection of Ashante gold weights and early musical instruments from Sierra Leona amongst other things.