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Old objects, new stories


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

Old objects, new stories

Encounters features rare, early Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects from the British Museum. They are displayed with new objects from the Indigenous communities represented in the exhibition.

These are powerful objects. They are all part of the living cultural traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They connect us to the histories of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

View the Museum's list of international loans for the Encounters exhibition (PDF 541kb)

The National Museum of Australia is an approved borrowing institution under the Australian Government’s Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Scheme. See more about the Museum's participation in this scheme

All images below are © The Trustees of the British Museum unless otherwise indicated.

Bag woven from human hair, containing pituri
probably from Birdsville, collected by William Finucane in 1891, 25 x 13 x 10.5 cm. British Museum Oc1897,-.637.
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Pituri bag

Message stick
Kimberley Aboriginal peoples, collected from north-west Western Australia by Sir Frederick Napier Broome in 1884, 25.4 x 2.3 x 0.5 cm. British Museum Oc,+.2424.
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Message stick

Shield (front)
collected from the Shoalhaven by Henry Moss before 1862, 89 x 34 x 7 cm. British Museum Oc.1808.
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Wooden shield

Sokop madub (human figure) garden charm
Meriam people, collected on Mer (Murray Island) by Alfred Cort Haddon in 1888–89, 69 x 12.5 x 2 cm. British Museum Oc,89+.176.
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Human figure

Kodj (axe)
Menang people, collected from King George Sound (Albany) by Alexander Collie in 1831–33, 38.5 x 11 x 5 cm. British Museum Oc.4768.
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Manalargenna [Mannalargenna] of Oyster Bay
about 1832–33, watercolour by Thomas Bock, 26.5 x 22.3 cm. British Museum Oc2006,Drg.61.
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A painting of a man

Bunuba people, West Kimberley, donated by Craven Harry Ord in the late 1890s, 152 x 3.1 x 1.5 cm. British Museum Oc1899,-461.
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Le-op (turtle-shell mask)
collected on Erub (Darnley Island) by Joseph Beete Jukes in March 1845, 40 cm long. British Museum Oc1846,0731.3.
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Shield (back)
collected from the Shoalhaven by Henry Moss before 1862, 89 x 34 x 7 cm. British Museum Oc.1808.
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Back of a wooden shield which shows a hand with figures pointing to the end.

Gulidjan or Wadawurrung people, collected from Birregurra by Eliza Bromfield in 1867, 73 x 11 cm. British Museum Oc.8067.
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Tunga (bark basket)
Tiwi people, collected by William Dawson in 1912, 67.4 x 50.7 cm x 40.5 cm (diameter). British Museum Oc1913,-.145.
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Murlapaka (shield)
Kaurna Miyurna people, Adelaide, collected by Samuel Hexter in the 1840s, 103 x 22 cm. British Museum Oc1848,0821.3.
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Burranditj (feather skirt)
Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong peoples, collected by Augustus Strong, probably from St Marys, Warrnambool, in
1842–44, 27 x 95 cm. British Museum Oc1847,0413.2.
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Emu feather skirt

Kelp water container
Tasmanian Aborigines, collected from Oyster Cove by Joseph Milligan in 1850–51, 11.3 x 6 x 15.5 cm (longest stick). British Museum Oc1851,1122.2.
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Model kelp basket

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. British Museum Oc1901,1221.9.
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Bathi (ceremonial spears)
Yolngu people, Arnhem Land, collected from Makassar by Carl Alfred Bock in 1879. British Museum Oc,BK.132.
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Yolgnu spear

Pop le-op (turtle-shell mask)
Meriam people, collected on Mer (Murray Island) before 1855, 40 cm long. British Museum Oc1855,1220.169 470281.
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Turtle-shell mask

Dingo-tail headband
collected from Somerset or the Torres Strait, by William Kennett in 1867–68, 30 cm (excluding ties). British Museum Oc.6944.
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Yalga (spearpoint)
probably Worrorra people, collected from Hanover Bay by Phillip Parker King on 8 August 1821, 14 x 3.8 x 0.7 cm. British Museum Oc.8767.
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Yalga (spearpoint)

collected from New South Wales by Thomas Mitchell in 1836, 69.4 x 4.4 x 1.1 cm. British Museum Oc1839,1012.2.
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Gweagal people, collected at Botany Bay in April 1770, 97 x 29 x 12 cm. British Museum Oc1978,Q.839.
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Gweagal shield

Bark etching
Dja Dja Wurrung people, collected from Fernyhurst by John Hunter Kerr before 1855, 67 x 31 x 13 cm, British Museum Oc.1827.
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Bark etching

Dulloom (dillybag)
Bundjalung people, collected from Richmond River by Mary Bundock in the 1870s, 33 x 43 x 2 cm. British Museum Oc1928,0110.107.
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collected from Rockingham Bay by John Ewen, Davidson in
1866–68, 99.8 x 42.5 cm. British Museum Oc.7696.
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Ngal-bo (emu-feather dance ornament)
Noongar people, collected from Swan River colony (Perth), by Samuel Talbot in 1838, 28 x 17 x 5 cm. British Museum Oc1839,0620.20.
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Noongar emu-feather dance ornament

Kaldra (seed necklace)
Dieri people, collected from Killalpaninna by HJ 'Harry' Hillier in 1893–1905, 490 cm long. British Museum Oc1908,0620.18.
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Seed necklace

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. British Museum Oc,89+.184.
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Dugong figure

Arabirra (didgeridoo)
collected from Port Essington before 1844, 99 x 3 cm. British Museum Oc1855,1220.177.
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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. British Museum Oc.4062
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Fishing line

Stone scraper
Ngunnawal, Ngunawal and Ngambri peoples, collected from Mount Ainslie, Canberra, by William Kinsela in 1932–33, 4.6 cm long. British Museum Oc1933,1115.58.
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Stone scraper

Yidinji people, collected in the Cairns region by Derwent Vallance before 1903, 89.5 x 33 x 9 cm. British Museum Oc1933,0403.5.
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Rainforest shield