Consuming Colonialism: Curio Dealers’ Catalogues, Souvenir Objects and Indigenous Agency in Oceania

  • Rodney HarrisonEmail author
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)


This chapter explores the potential for a study of colonial curio dealers’ catalogues in producing particular forms of colonial desire that contributed to the production of a market in ethnographic souvenirs in Britain and its colonies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Curio dealers occupied an integral space in a network which connected museums, tourists and indigenous artisans, but have been largely ignored in studies of colonial relations and material culture. Previous work on Kimberley Points has suggested Indigenous Australians produced markets for the sale of certain curios to colonial collectors which fulfilled complex roles within the groups who manufactured them, as well as those who received them through purchase, trade or exchange. Focussing on the 1929 catalogue of a Sydney-based curio dealer, Tyrells Museum (formerly Tost and Rohu Taxidermists, Tanners, Furriers and Island Curio Dealers), this chapter demonstrates that such catalogues not only have the potential to reveal changes in market demand, price and desirability of ethnographic objects, but also how artefacts were transformed from functional objects into ornaments, changes in their method and context of manufacture, as well as changing colonial relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people.


Indigenous People Material Culture Solomon Island Australian Museum Clam Shell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Robin Torrence, Stan Florek, Rose Docker, Barrina South, Vanessa Finney and Leone Lemmer for their assistance with access to archival material and collections at the Australian Museum and for facilitating permission to publish archival images and photographs of objects from the Australian Museum collection. I also thank Di Jackson at the State Library of NSW for facilitating permission to publish images from the Mitchell Library collection, and the Buchanan Family for waiving the usual reproduction fees. I thank Tony Bennett for permission to make reference to his unpublished conference paper ‘Making and Mobilising Worlds: Museum, Field, Colony and the Circulation of Reference’. Like many other chapters in this volume, this chapter was originally presented in the session ‘Unpacking the Collection’ at the Sixth World Archaeological Congress in Dublin in 2008. I thank Sarah Byrne, Robin Torrence, Anne Clarke and all the participants in the session for their helpful comments on revising the conference paper for publication.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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