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Encounters

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Featured places

The Australian Indigenous objects in the British Museum’s collection came from a diverse range of encounters between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and British explorers, officials and settlers. These encounters began in 1770 and took place in locations across the continent. The Encounters exhibition highlighted a selection of these encounters.

Interactive map

Move your mouse over the map below and click on the red dots to view more information about the location, the people, and the objects – old and new – on display in Encounters.

Adelaide

Adelaide

South Australia

Kaurna Miyurna country

Murlapaka (shield):collected by Samuel Hexter in the 1840s, 103 x 22 cm.

Nothing ... shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own Persons or in the Persons of their Descendants of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives.

Extract from 'Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom
erecting and establishing the Province of South Australia and fixing the
boundaries thereof', 1836.

More about Adelaide

British Museum Oc1848,0821.3

Albany

Albany

Western Australia

Menang country

Kodj (axe):collected from King George Sound (Albany) by Alexander Collie in 1831–33, 38.5 x 11 x 5 cm.

We certainly had come into their country and set ourselves down at, if not in, their homes and upon their territories.

Alexander Collie, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 5 July 1834

More about Albany

British Museum Oc.4768

Birdsville

Birdsville

Queensland

Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi country

Bag woven from wool and twine, containing pituri:probably from Birdsville, collected by William Finucane in 1891, 17 x 38 x 12 cm.

Wirrarri [Birdsville] was a major trading [place] ... The Pituri bush was traded and used a long time ago – No one here uses or trades it now.

Alpunea Jean Barr-Crombie, Wangkangurru and Yarluyandi, 2014

More about Birdsville

British Museum Oc1897,-.636

Birregurra

Birregurra

South-west Victoria

Gulidjan and Wadawurrung country

Spear-thrower:collected from Birregurra by Eliza Bromfield in 1867, 73 x 11 cm.

More about Birregurra

British Museum Oc.8067

Botany Bay

Botany Bay

New South Wales

Gweagal and Bidjigal country

Shield:collected at Botany Bay in April 1770, 97 x 29 x 12 cm.

As we approached the Shore they all made off, except 2 Men, who seem'd resolved to oppose our landing.

James Cook's journal, 29 April 1770.

More about Botany Bay

British Museum Oc1978,Q.839

Cairns

Cairns

Queensland

Yidinji country

Shield:collected in the Cairns region by Derwent Vallance before 1903, 89.5 x 33 x 9 cm.

It would be interesting to get into the mind of those people, those collectors, in terms of why they collected. What kind of feelings did they have to the object? ... What do these objects mean to them as opposed to what do these objects mean to us, the Aboriginal community?

Henrietta Marrie, Gimuy Walabura Yidinji Elder, 2013

More about Cairns

British Museum Oc1933,0403.5

Canberra

Canberra

Australian Capital Territory

Ngunnawal, Ngunawal and Ngambri country

Stone scraper:collected from Mount Ainslie, Canberra, by William Kinsela in 1932–33, 4.6 cm long.

Among the hills near Mt Ainslie, at Canberra, [I] collected a few ... flaked implements, showing careful workmanship of secondary finish – Perhaps after six hours careful hunting on one site the reward might only be twelve artifacts.

William Kinsela, 1933

More about Canberra

British Museum Oc1933,1115.58

Erub (Darnley Island)

Erub (Darnley Island)

Torres Strait

Le-op (turtle-shell mask):collected on Erub (Darnley Island) by Joseph Beete Jukes in March 1845, 40 cm long.

In March 1845, HMS Fly visited Erub as part of a British naval project to chart sea routes through the Torres Strait.

An active barter immediately commenced with our boats' crews, in which
tortoise-shell, bows and arrows, and other curiosities, with some cocoa-nuts, were exchanged against knives, axes, and tobacco.

Extract from JB Juke's Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Fly, 1847

More about Erub (Darnley Island)

British Museum Oc1846,0731.3

Fernyhurst

Fernyhurst

Victoria

Dja Dja Wurrung country

Bark engraving:collected from Fernyhurst by John Hunter Kerr before 1855, 67 x 31 x 13 cm.

I'd like the rest of the world to know that Dja Dja Wurrung people still exist. We are still here as a people. We are proud and value our culture. We honour our ancestors, and everything that we do, we are doing on behalf of our ancestors who didn't have the voice that we have today.

Aunty Fay Carter, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, 2014

More about Fernyhurst

British Museum Oc.1827

Flinders Island

Flinders Island

Tasmania

Tasmanian Aboriginal country

Manalargenna [Mannalargenna] of Oyster Bay:about 1832–33, watercolour by Thomas Bock, 26.5 x 22.3 cm.

The minute I look at that [portrait] I immediately within myself reaffirm who I am.

Clyde Mansell, palawa Elder, 2014

More about Flinders Island

British Museum Oc2006,Drg.61

Hanover Bay

Hanover Bay

Western Australia

Worrorra country

Yalga (spearpoint):collected from Hanover Bay by Phillip Parker King on 8 August 1821, 14 x 3.8 x 0.7 cm.

On landing we climbed the rocks on which the two men were standing … upon our approach they retired a few paces and evidently eyed us in a distrustful manner.

PP King, 7 August 1821

More about Hanover Bay

British Museum Oc.8767

Shield

Inland New South Wales

Wiradjuri country

Boomerang:collected from New South Wales by Thomas Mitchell in 1836, 69.4 x 4.4 x 1.1 cm.


Two Wiradjuri guides, John Piper and Turandurey, accompanied Thomas Mitchell during his journey through inland New South Wales in 1836.

John Piper ... spoke English tolerably well [and] agreed to accompany me as far as I should go, provided he was allowed a horse and was clothed, fed, etc.; all which I immediately agreed to.

Thomas Mitchell, 16 March 1836, Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia

More about Inland New South Wales

British Museum Oc1839,1012.2

Seed necklace

Killalpaninna

South Australia

Dieri country

Kaldra (seed necklace):collected from Killalpaninna by HJ ‘Harry’ Hillier in 1893–1905, 490 cm long.

We don't live like that anymore. We don't practise making those things, but we practise our language and it develops as our knowledge and culture does.

Shirley Waye-Hill, Dieri, 2014

More about Killalpaninna

British Museum Oc1908,0620.18

Lammermoor

Lammermoor

Queensland

Yirandali country

Koocha (child’s axe):by Ko-Bro (‘Barney’), collected from Lammermoor by Robert Christison in the late 19th century, 24.2 x 6.5 cm.

When taking up land at Lammermoor in the 1860s, Robert Christison was recorded as saying to Barney, an Yirandali elder:

You and me sit down two fellow messmate. Country belonging to you. sheep belonging to me.

Mary Bennett, Robert Christison's daughter, 1927

More about Lammermoor

British Museum Oc1901,1221.9

Mer (Murray Island)

Mer (Murray Island)

Torres Strait

Turtle-shell mask:Acquired by the British Museum in 1855.

This art reflects the society, the Meriam people or the eastern Island people. That art mirror that society at that time.

Alo Tapim, Meriam Elder, 2014

More about Mer (Murray Island)

Oc1855,1220.169

North-east Arnhem Land

North-east Arnhem Land

Northern Territory

Yolngu country

Bati (ceremonial spears):collected from Makasar by Carl Alfred Bock in 1879.

Long time ago, when the north-east wind blew, the Mangatharra [Makasar] would travel from their place up north in Indonesia to Arnhem Land. They came in Macassan boats called praus. They planted tamarind trees and traded with Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people, they traded the trepang ... and the Mangatharra traded knives and material.

Laklak Burarrwanga, Yolngu Elder, 2008

More about North-east Arnhem Land

British Museum Oc,BK.128

kimberley

Kimberley region

Western Australia

Kimberley Aboriginal country

Message stick:collected from north-west Western Australia by Sir Frederick Napier Broome in 1884, 25.4 x 2.3 x 0.5 cm.

More about the Kimberley region

British Museum Oc,+.2424

Oyster Cove

putalina (Oyster Cove)

Tasmania

Tasmanian Aboriginal country

Kelp water container:collected from Oyster Cove by Joseph Milligan in 1850–51, 11.3 x 6 x 15.5 cm (longest stick).

I think ... our people had those objects in their hands ... I think [about] what conversations that were around that basket ... I just imagine holding one of those baskets.

Theresa Sainty, pakana (Tasmanian Aborigine), 2014

More about Oyster Cove

British Museum Oc1851,1122.2

Perth

Western Australia

Noongar country

Emu feather ornament

Ngal-bo (emu-feather dance ornament):collected from Swan River colony (Perth) by Samuel Talbot in 1838, 28 x 17 x 5 cm.

What is important is not just the object but the knowledge about making it. About the bird, the tree, about the relationships embedded in that knowledge. It's all about relationship.

Dr Noel Nannup, Noongar Elder, 2014

More about Perth

British Museum Oc1839,0620.20

Port Essington

Port Essington

Northern Territory

Cobourg Peninsula Aboriginal country

Artawirr (didgeridoo):collected from Port Essington before 1844, 99 x
3 cm.

Today we are lucky we are getting this material back to look at, but you have to listen to both versions, the Indigenous version of our history and the non-Indigenous version. They are both telling the truth but they are not
the same story.

Don Christophersen, Muran, 2013

More about Port Essington

British Museum Oc1855,1220.177

Fishing spear

Port Jackson

New South Wales

Sydney Aboriginal country

Garradjun (fishing line):Sydney Aboriginal peoples, collected from Port Jackson, probably by Ralph Mansfield, in the 1830s, 975.4 x.5.5 x 2.5 cm.

My father fished Sydney Harbour and my mother's family fished there … they had to, to provide for their families.

Dennis Foley, Gai-mariagal Elder, 2015

More about Port Jackson

British Museum Oc.4062

Richmond River

Richmond River

New South Wales

Bundjalung country

Dulloom (dillybag):collected from Richmond River by Mary Bundock in the 1870s, 33 x 43 x 2 cm.

I don't think [Mary Bundock] particularly thought that she was collecting for a museum. In a sense she was collecting to look after the stories of the people that she loved. I think that was a terrific thing, and we should be
really proud of that.

Janet Wilson, 2014

More about Richmond River

British Museum Oc1928,0110.107

Rockingham Bay

Rockingham Bay

Queensland

Bandjin, Djiru, Girramay, Gugu Badhun, Gulnay, Jirrbal, Nywaigi, Warrgamay, Warungnu country

Shield:collected from Rockingham Bay by John Ewen Davidson in 1866–68, 99.8 x 42.5 cm.

There was like guerilla warfare that was going on along the coast here and the islands ... but not many people know about 'em ... They think it's in the past, you know, like 150 years is a long time ... It's nothing, 150 years.

Leonard Andy, Djiru Traditional Owner, 2012

More about Rockingham Bay

British Museum Oc.7696

shoalhaven

Shoalhaven

New South Wales

Jerrinja and Wandi Wandian country

Shield (front):collected from the Shoalhaven by Henry Moss before 1862, 89 x 34 x 7 cm.

It's important that museums display these shields so that people can
learn about us.

Uncle Sonny Simms, Wandi Wandian Elder, 2014

More about Shoalhaven

British Museum Oc.1808

Somerset

Somerset

Cape York, Queensland

Gudang country

Dingo-tail headband:collected from Somerset or the Torres Strait by William Kennett in 1867–68, 30 cm (excluding ties).

Our oral histories are very detailed as they are handed down. The history of Somerset is hard for our old people to share because the violence was bad. Everyone know about Jardine but not Kennett.

Nicholas Thompson, Gudang, 2014

More about Somerset

British Museum Oc.6944

Tiwi Islands

Bathurst and Melville islands

Northern Territory

Tiwi country

Tunga (bark container):collected by William Dawson in 1912, 67.4 x 50.7 cm x 40.5 cm (diameter).

It's a very good thing that we know where all our stuff is around the world. And we need someone to go and explain the story to these people. Like the tunga, you need someone to go and explain to them what they used for ceremony purposes. People need to understand what these symbols are for.

Gibson Farmer Illortamini, Tiwi, 2013

More about Bathurst and Melville islands

British Museum Oc1913,-.145

Tudu

Torres Strait

Queensland

Tudu

Dangal (dugong) charm for bringing good luck on a dugong hunt:collected on Tudu by Alfred Cort Haddon in 1888, 22 x 9 x 11.5 cm.

I am taking 79lbs of trade tobacco & a supply of tomahawks & a large knives for barter during next weeks' cruise. I am anxious to get a supply of implements & 'curios' generally.

Extract from AC Haddon's journal, 1888–89

More about Tudu

British Museum Oc,89+.184

Warrnambool region

Warrnambool region

Victoria

Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong country

Burranditj (feather skirt):collected by Augustus Strong, probably from St Marys, Warrnambool, in 1842–44, 27 x 95 cm.

When I go on country I'm looking for a small window in time, to let us look into the past, to see what it may have looked like once. That makes me happy. When I see these old artefacts I feel the same. I get a glimpse of something. Of the past.

Thomas Day, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta, 2013

More about Warrnambool

British Museum Oc1847,0413.2

West Kimberley

West Kimberley

Western Australia

Bunuba country

Spear:donated by Craven Harry Ord in the late 1890s, 152 x 3.1 x 1.5 cm.

I had managed to accumulate a quantity of native weapons and thought they might be of value or interest to the museum … In any case, the weapons are genuine native weapons of the type taken by police from native camps.

CH Ord, letter to the British Museum, 6 October 1899

More about West Kimberley

British Museum Oc1899,-461.

Featured places