Objects with Connections…

Steel bladed Axe, San Cristobal, Solomon Islands. Collected 1883 -1900 by W H Lawrence. Queensland Museum Australian South Sea Islander Kastom Collection. E310. Image courtesy of Queensland Museum.

Objects with a connection to the trade of South Sea Islander labourers can be seen at the Queensland Museum.  Some 736 objects make up the Museum’s Australian South Sea Islander Kastom Collection, which focuses predominantly on objects from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands that were collected or donated by people who had connection to the South Sea Islander labour trade between 1863 and 1908. 

The collection includes weapons such as shields, clubs, bows and arrows; beautifully woven mats, bags and arm ornaments; and intricately designed fish hooks, lime containers, shell inlaid bowls and pendants. 

A Bonito lure from Malaita, Solomon Islands made from pearl shell, Turtle shell and red glass trade beads. Collected in between 1883 -1900 by W H Lawrence. E285.Image courtesy Queensland Museum

Objects like this axe and fish hook  have been acquired into the Musem's collection from people such as W H Lawrence.   W H Lawrence was a Master on labour trade vessels including Fanny 1883-4, May Queen 1884-6, Forest King 1886-7. He was in the position of Government Agent on the Helena 1890, Para 1893-5, Lochiel 1895, Helena 1897, Lady Norman 1899-1900. 

View of two ships, the Helena and the May, that were used to transport South Sea Islanders in to Bundaberg, Queensland. John Oxley Library, Negative number: 2245

If you know that your ancestors travelled on any of these boats at this time, then it is highly likely this axe, fish hook and many other objects like this made that journey with them.

There are many more objects like this in the Queensland Museum’s Australian South Sea Islander Kastom Collection.  For more information about this collection please contact me at the Queensland Museum on (07) 3840 7555 or email  imelda.miller@qm.qld.gov.au

Imelda Miller – Assistant Curator, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies, Queensland Museum.


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