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GoSeeAustralia has a unique Encounter with Capt Cook at the National Museum of Australia

July 02, 2006
GoSeeAustralia has a unique Encounter with Capt Cook at the National Museum of Australia

The amazing exhibition of rare objects Cook's Pacific Encounters opened at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on Friday, June 30 and runs until September 10.

The exhibition of rare, 18th century, functional and spiritual objects was collected in the Pacific islands by Captain James Cook and GoSeeAustralias representatives say they were blown away when they attended the official launch on Friday.

The National Museum is the exclusive Australian venue for this exhibition exquisite of objects, renowned among anthropologists but rarely seen by the public.

Comprised of more than 300 ritual and everyday items, the collection has been held at the George August University of Gottingen for more than 200 years. It was on show at the Academy of Arts in Honolulu - the first time the material has been seen in the Pacific since it was acquired it returns to Germany after the Canberra exhibition.

The jewellery, clothing, weapons and musical instruments were collected on Cook's second and third Pacific voyages, between 1768 and 1779. The objects are rich in craftsmanship and spiritual power and were given as gifts or traded with Cook by indigenous people from locations including Tonga, Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii.

Fish hook, Tahiti. Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie der Univ
Fish hook, Tahiti.
Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie
der University

Most of the collection was donated to the George August University in 1782 by King George III, whose links with the house of Hanover meant he also ruled Gottingen and Lower Saxony. Other material came from two German natural scientists, Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Georg, who accompanied Cook on his second voyage and had academic connections with Gottingen.

Highlights include a feathered helmet from Hawaii, a shell trumpet from the Marquesas and a mourning dress and breast ornaments from Tahiti.

Headband, Marquesas. Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie der Un
Headband, Marquesas.
Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie
der University

Cook's Pacific Encounters explores the concept of science and empire and look at the various crew members who joined Cook on his three Pacific journeys, and how they interpreted the experience in their journals and works of art.

The exhibition also looks at the complex distribution of Cook-related material, held by public institutions and private collectors throughout the world.

The National Museum is also hosting a one-day symposium on the contemporary significance of the objects and the relationship between the voyagers and the indigenous people they encountered. International guest speakers including Adrienne Kaeppler, from the Smithsonian Institution; Paul Tapsell, from the Auckland War Memorial Museum; and Lissant Bolton, from the British Museum, will attend the Discovering Cook's Collections forum on July 28.

National Museum of Australia
National Museum of Australia
Original design, National Museum of Australia
Original design,
National Museum of Australia

Cook's Pacific Encounters is presented by Art Exhibitions Australia and is on show at the National Museum of Australia's Temporary Exhibition Gallery.

National Museum of Australia Director, Craddock Morton, welcomed guests at the launch of Cook's Pacific Encountersnoting that- Most Australians know that Cook discovered the east coast of Australia and died in Hawaii, this exhibition should fill in all the gaps.

He invited Matilda House, a Canberra Ngunnawal elder to deliver a welcome to country. The exhibition is on the ancestral lands of the Ngunnawal.

Professor Brigitta Hauser-Schaublin of Germany's Georg-August University of Gottingen gave and overview of the exhibit and underlined the unique opportunity Australians had to see it first hand.

In Germany the exhibition is only open three hours every Sunday, she said.

German Ambassador Martin Lutz officially opened the exhibition. This is the second best thing to happen between Australia and Germany this year next to the Socceroos, he said.

The Islander dancers and Maori dances at thelaunchamazed guest and the haka, as always, was an attention getter.

GoSeeAustralia found the exhibition, like all the NMA exhibitions, well laid out and presented.
The catalog Cook's Pacific Encounters produced by the NMA is fascinating and a wealth of information. Entry: $10 per adult.

Editor's Note also see:

Pendant, Tonga. Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie der Univers
Pendant, Tonga.
Courtesy Institut fr Ethnologie
der University
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