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Papua New Guinea – Harry Moore Dauncey

Man on a mission

The Museum’s biggest and most significant Papua New Guinean collection, with more than 400 artefacts, came from the Reverend Henry (known as Harry) Moore Dauncey (1863-1928). Dauncey worked as a Christian Protestant missionary for the London Missionary Society (LMS) and was stationed at the village of Delena – in the Papuan Gulf region – for over forty years, from the 1880s until the 1920s. He wrote a book about his life and work, Papuan Pictures, which was illustrated with his own photographs and published in 1913.

An image of Reverend Henry Moore Dauncey from one his photograph albums, showing him dressed up in a local headdress. 

Council for World Mission/SOAS Library (CMW/LMS/Papua New Guinea/Photographs Box 6 – File 8/14)

The page above, from one his photograph albums, shows Dauncey dressed up in a local headdress. He took pride in his friendly but paternalistic relationships with the people he was trying to convert – not just to Christianity, but to a European way of life. In his book, Dauncey depicts himself as patient and cheerful, and the locals as needing his help.

Find out more about Dauncey’s life in PNG in a brief biography.

Dauncey’s collection at Plymouth

Dauncey collected objects during his life and work in PNG, and sold most of these to the Plymouth museum later in his career, in 1909 and in 1923. He also gave the Museum a few objects as gifts, and may have left others as a bequest. Dauncey does not describe exactly how he collected his objects – he could have received them as gifts from the people he worked with, or obtained them through local systems of barter and exchange. We do not know why he chose Plymouth – like many other travellers, he may have visited the Museum when his voyage began or ended here.

Black and white photo of a display of body ornaments from PNG

Courtesy and copyright Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI 34324)

The photograph above shows Dauncey’s own display of body ornaments from his collection – many of these are now at the Museum. Missionaries like Dauncey brought objects back to Britain for a variety of reasons – as mementos for themselves, to demonstrate their success in converting people to Christianity, to raise awareness of their work, or to sell to raise money for their endeavours.

Dauncey’s collection beyond Plymouth

We know about Dauncey from the objects, photographs and words that he left behind him. These tell us a lot about local life in Papua New Guinea at the turn of the twentieth century – but seen through a missionary’s eyes.

The Dauncey material at Plymouth is part of a bigger collection he made, parts of which can now be found in several different British museums and archives. Download the documents below to find out more about Dauncey’s collections at these other institutions. Overseas, his photographs can be found at the Harvard Peabody Museum in the USA, and at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

Dauncey’s collection – at the School of Oriental and African Studies [PDF – 680KB]

Dauncey’s collection at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London [PDF – 179KB]

Dauncey’s collection – at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford [PDF – 1.67MB]

Dauncey’s collection – at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge [PDF – 1MB]

Dauncey’s collection – at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen [PDF – 216KB]

Dauncey’s collection – at the British Museum [PDF – 104KB]