Isokichi Komine

A.B. Lewis’ massive collection was not amassed without assistance- during and after his expeditions, he used his network of local traders and collectors across the Pacific to procure objects for the Field Museum. Of the 12,000 objects Lewis provided the museum, over 3,000 were purchased from Japanese collector and entrepreneur Isokichi Komine.

 

Komine’s early years are somewhat mysterious - he was born in Shimabara, Japan, around 1866 and came to the Torres Straits (between Australia and New Guinea) in 1890.  Over the next twenty years, Komine worked on a pearling ship, captained his own ship, ran a sugar plantation, built a shipyard in Rabaul, and established trading stations throughout the Admiralty Islands. By 1907, he was an important figure across Pacific communities- with ties to the Japanese, German colonists, and islanders who were the source of his eventual collections.

 

Komine was eventually forced to flee New Guinea in 1913 due to business and legal trouble, but by that time he had already acquired a vast collection from his many voyages, and in turn sold these objects to A.B. Lewis. Documentation from this time period is oftentimes scarce, so we cannot say which objects Lewis purchased from Komine- but his facility with trade and commerce helped build our New Ireland, New Britain and mainland Papua New Guinea collections.

 

For further information, see:

Robert L. Welsch (1998). An American Anthropologist in Melanesia: A. B. Lewis and the Joseph N. Field Expedition, 1909-1913 (2 vols.). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Written by 2018 Regenstein intern Clay Jaskowski

Otto Finsch

Dr. Otto Finsch (1839-1917) was a German ornithologist and ethnologist. His ornithology work was not always well received due to his attempts to rename established things after himself. His ethnological work was also unpopular; he disagreed with the prevailing racial theory of the time and instead averred that humanity is one species, with seamlessly blended racial variations, making it impossible to assign discrete racial types.

 

During his travels, Finsch joined the South Sea Plotters, a group dedicated to German colonial expansion in the Pacific. The dark side of Finsch’s collecting, and that of many of his contemporaries, was the belief that Europeans should continue to grow their empires into the Pacific, often displacing indigenous peoples and destroying the traditions they claimed to “save” via museum collections.

 

In the mid-1890s, the Field Museum purchased 503 Melanesian ethnological objects from Finsch. These objects were collected on two of his expeditions to the Western Pacific: an 1879 expedition to Hawai’i, Micronesia, New Britain, New Guinea, New Zealand, and Java, and an 1884 expedition to New Guinea.

Written by 2018 Regenstein intern Emily England

Templeton Crocker

Aboard his schooner the Zaca, Charles Templeton Crocker (1884-1948) traveled the world several times over, often inviting scientists and collectors along. Thanks to his grandfather’s involvement in the Central Pacific Railroad, Crocker inherited millions of dollars in his youth, enabling his lifelong patronage of scientific exploration and cultural institutions.

 

In 1933, Crocker journeyed to more than twenty locations in and around the Santa Cruz and Solomon Islands with a retinue of researchers, including Dr. S. M. Lambert, Mr. Gordon MacGregor (a Bishop Museum anthropologist), and Toshio Asaeda (an artist and photographer). Asaeda took hundreds of photographs and drew dozens marine species, while MacGregor did the majority of the ethnological collecting. Altogether, they collected over 2000 objects, ten thousand feet of motion picture recordings, and numerous sound recordings. After MacGregor and the Bishop Museum made their final selections, Crocker offered the remaining collection to the Field Museum in 1934 due to their already prominent Pacific anthropology collections.

 

The Crocker collection added objects from islands not previously represented in the collection and added several unique pieces to preexisting geographic areas, such as an old, large, carved Marquesan bowl, ornamented mats from Puka Puka, baskets, ornaments, ceremonial objects, and other tools and personal accessories.

Written by 2018 Regenstein intern Emily England

Sylvester Lambert

The self-described “Yankee Doctor in Paradise” Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947) worked on several major public health initiatives throughout Oceania for the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Health Board from 1918 to 1939. Lambert worked with diseases such as malaria, dysentery, leprosy, and elephantiasis, but after receiving specialized training in Australia, his primary research was on hookworms and related diseases. Lambert was primarily based out of Suva, Fiji, where he co-founded a new medical school to increase the number of local medical practitioners and better combat public health crises, worsened by an ever-increasing European presence.

 

In late 1930, Templeton Crocker surprised Lambert in his offices, seeking more information about his recent trip to Rennell and Bellona Islands. Less than three years later, Crocker invited Lambert aboard the Zaca for a return trip. Lambert conducted a series of medical surveys and treated the ill, but was also useful for his pre-existing relationships with some of the local islanders. Most of the ethnological collecting was left to MacGregor for this trip, but like many of Lambert’s other trips, he traded with locals for information, medical access, and souvenirs. Many locals also initiated trades for Western goods, like metal blades and glass.

 

Upon his return to the United States, Lambert donated 265 ethnological specimens from the Pacific Islands and New Guinea to the Field Museum. The collection provided the museum’s first ever accessions from Tuvalu, as well as additions to the Papua New Guinea, Australia, Fiji and Kiribati collections.

Written by 2018 Regenstein intern Emily England

Irving Channon

American Congregationalist Reverend Irving Channon (1862-1942) was a corporate member and missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). His wife, Mary G. Channon (1865-1957), was a member of and correspondent for the Micronesian Mission Women’s Board of the ABCFM. The two began their missionary work in 1890 in Micronesia. They were based out of Kusaie (now Kosrae, of the Federated States of Micronesia) and, on a later deployment, Cagayan in the Philippines.

 

We have little documentation from the Channons specifically regarding their collecting, but correspondence between the reverend and George Dorsey indicates that the collection was built with “great care,” is “remarkably complete” and was offered to the museum at a low price. Many of the items were made especially for the Channons; then director of the Field Museum, Frederick Skiff, initially rejected the collection due to its “newness.” However, an agreement was eventually reached in 1907 and the museum purchased the collection in time for the pair to return from the US to Micronesia, where they remained until 1913. The collection primarily includes garments, personal accessories, models, spears, and tools.

Written by 2018 Regenstein intern Emily England

 
 
 
 
 

Background image: Port Moresby by Hitchster. CC BY 2.0 / cropped and desaturated from original

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