Skip to content

The National Museum of Australia is temporarily closed to the public until further notice. Read more in our coronavirus statement

  • Closed
  • Free general admission
Black and white photograph of a man wearing a large mask, which covers his head. Grass extends from the mask and covers the shoulders and chest of the wearer.
Man wearing a kovave (mask)

In 1913 the Australian Government built an anthropology museum in Port Moresby, and introduced legislation to protect the cultural property of Indigenous Papuans.

The Papuan Antiquities Ordinance prevented the export of significant items of tangible cultural heritage. Artefacts exported in contravention of the ordinance could be confiscated and added to the government’s own collection, which later became known as the ‘Papuan Official collection’.

‘To receive a mask is both an honour and an obligation’, explained Papua New Guinean politician Albert Maori Kiki in 1968. ‘The initiate … is placed under a strong obligation to the people who give him a mask to wear. They will expect him to render help later on in doing their gardens and in looking after them when they are old.’

‘Australia’s Official Papuan collection’, reCollections

Papuan Official collection database records

In our collection

Eharo maskA conical mask of tapa cloth on a cane frame, with a beaked mouth, circular eyes, and projecting ears. The base terminates in concentric cane rings bound together. The mask is painted white, with red on the mouth, nose, and brow, and black around the eyes.
On display

Australia’s Official Papuan collection: Sir Hubert Murray and the how and why of a colonial collection

Sylvia Schaffarczyk reconstructs the history of the Museum's Official Papuan collection and examines Australian collecting in Papua during a key period in the development of anthropology and Australia’s colonial interests.
Open player in a new tab
Presenters: Sylvia Schaffarczyk
Return to Top