New York City Travel
Pacific Islands exhibits and permanent collections in the museum. Guide and description for visitors.    
 
 
American Museum of Natural History.

SOUTHWEST PAVILION
COLLECTIONS FROM THE PACIFIC ISLANDS

Near the entrance of this hall of the American Museum of Natural History is the collection of the pacific islands. A large Hawaiian feather cape made from the red and yellow feathers of a honey-sucker. Such capes formerly were worn by the kings and chiefs of Hawaii. In the center of the hall is a group representing a Tahitian priest in the firewalking ceremony. The explanation of the fact that the heated rocks do not cause injury to the bare feet is that the porous basalt is a bad conductor of heat, so that while the stones appear to be of forbidding heat the upper surface is not sufficiently hot to cause discomfort fo the tough-soled natives.

On the left of this group is another showing a native Tahitian engaged in making kava, a stupefying beverage prepared from the roots of the pepper plant, Piper  methysticum, and another weaving roof coverings of pandanus; on the right is a group representing a native Tahitian grating cocoanut and another making fire by the primitive method characteristic of the Polynesiansand other pacific islands natives, by means of the fire-plough.

With the exception of a small Australian exhibit, consisting of boomerangs, stone implements and ceremonial objects, the entire hall is devoted to collections from islands of the pacific like Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.

The eastern half of this hall of the American Museum of Natural History contains objects from Samoa, Hawaii, Marquesas, Cook, Gilbert, Savage, Marshall, Caroline and Tonga Islands, including wooden images, tapa cloth, weapons, musical instruments, garments, ornaments of dress and models of canoes. Especially interesting in the northeast corner of the hall are the suits of armor and the unique series of weapons from the Gilbert Islanders. The armor is woven of cocoanut fiber and the weapons are set with sharks' teeth. The old mariner's chart, composed of straight and curved sticks to denote the course of the waves while small pebbles represent the atolls, secured from the Marshall Islanders by the late Robert Louis Stevenson, will also repay attention.

In the southeastern section of the hall are fine examples of tapa cloth, canoe models, household utensils, garments, kava bowls, necklaces and weapons from Samoa and Fiji. Among the most valuable specimens is the model of a bure or temple, while the cannibal forks and flesh racks are probably the rarest and most exceptional in museum collections.
 
 
In the front of the Tower Room stands a life-size cast of a Maori warrior, posed in an attitude of defiance, on the largest block of jade in any museum in the world. Within the Tower are specimens of Maori carvings, clothing and tools, together with a remarkable collection of the tattooed heads of ancient Maoris. The heads are thirty-five in number and illustrate all the different styles of the art of tattooing as practiced among these peoples prior to 1831, when it was forbidden by the British Government.

The remainder of this hall of the American Museum of Natural History contains specimens from the Melanesians of New Hebrides, New Caledonia, New Ire-land, New Britain, Admiralty, Solomon and New Guinea Islands. In these exhibits the sacred carvings and masks from New Ireland and the grotesque shields and ceremonials from New Guinea are especially noteworthy. Enter the

 

Go To Next Page

 

 

Back To Previous Page

 
Copyright © 2004 NewYorkCity.co