The World Cultures collection is relatively small at less than 2000 objects. It forms part of the Archaeology collection which also includes Egyptology. The collection was founded by the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society and was transferred to Sheffield’s first public museum at Weston Park in 1875. It is a ‘closed’ collection which means no objects will be added to it. It comprises objects mainly made from natural materials like wood, plant fibre, textile and hide and dates from the early 1900s to 2000s. They are non-European objects collected from:
Africa: West, Central and Southern AfricaAsia: Borneo, China, India, Japan and Indonesiathe Americas: Sub-arctic, North America (Woodlands and Plains material), Northwest Coast and South AmericaOceania (group of islands in the Pacific Ocean): Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tahiti
These objects reflect links between the local people and rest of the world. It shows European trade, customs, ideas, beliefs, craftsmanship and interventions. Objects range from personal accessories to warrior shields. They were mainly collected by missionaries. Others were bought at auctions, exchanges with other museums and donations from the public. There is also a significant Americas collection donated by the Earl of Wharncliffe to the museum in 1901 (collected by his grandfather 2nd Baron of Wharncliffe) which includes an Native American warrior shirt and Joseph Elliot knife. This knife was made in Sheffield by Joseph Elliot which got sold to the Sioux people who made its hide sheath. It was brought back to Sheffield by 2nd Baron of Wharncliffe.
As part of the Precious Cargo project, this collection has been researched and documented since April 2010 with the aim of providing physical and intellectual access to the public. It tells the story of how these objects people treasured came to Sheffield, their journey and relevance in today’s life. In addition, a group of young people working as co-curators has been learning about and working with this collection in the past year. They have chosen objects to be displayed in the Treasures Gallery at Weston Park Museum in March 2012 as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme.
Read more about the missionaries who collected these objects here