Welcome to the World Cultures collections and gallery at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

A view of the World Cultures Gallery A view of the World Cultures Gallery

World Cultures

World Cultures is an umbrella term given to describe a collection of objects once made and used by indigenous peoples around the world.

The aim of the gallery

The overall aim is to increase an understanding between those who visit the displays and those people whose ways of life are being described here. All of the objects on display in these galleries are real things, made and used by real people. Very few were made deliberately to be displayed to others, although some were.

Content of the World Cultures gallery

This first-floor gallery displays a wide range of fascinating objects that were made to reflect tradition, everyday use, and social even ceremonial occasions. Cultural values and identity are sometimes expressed through the object. The gallery enables the visitor to explore the exchange of ideas and objects between indigenous cultures and Europeans.

The World Cultures collection

Awarded designation status in 1998, the World Cultures collection is considered an important collection both nationally and internationally. There are approximately 12,000 identified items from Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 1,000 items are on display at any one time. Where possible we will work with source communities so that objects can be displayed appropriately with multiple voices.

A ceremonial gorget (taumi) from Tahiti

A ceremonial gorget (taumi) from Tahiti acquired by Francis Godolphin Bond during his naval career (Accession E1769) H.570mm


Associations with maritime voyages and the British Empire

Many of these objects reflect early encounters with voyages and Empire and the peoples whose lives were dramatically changed by it. This collection often highlights the link between Devon and the outside world. Artefacts were largely obtained through Empire by missionaries, traders, military officers, colonial administrators and explorers then donated to the museum many years later. They were acquired primarily as gifts, purchases, souvenirs even exchanges. However, a few items are known to have been unethically acquired during times of conflict.

World Cultures and acts of repatriation

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum has been pro-actively involved in the act of repatriation since 1994. In 1997, shell jewellery believed to have belonged to Aboriginal heroine Trucanini, was returned to Tasmania. In 2007, human remains were returned to New Zealand and in 2008 to Australia.

Human remains

Yes it has a very small collection. In recent years, the Museum has worked with indigenous communities so that remains can be safely returned where existing documentation and research can demonstrate provenance i.e. knowing where something comes from. Remains already have been returned to New Zealand and Australia. The ethnography collection cares for a small number of remains from Africa and Melanesia. These are stored appropriately and are not displayed. There are also objects that contain remains that have been culturally processed e.g. tsantsa from Peru, a skull drum from Tibet. These are displayed in an appropriate context. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum is a member of the Human Remains Subject Specialist Network and acts in accordance with the law, the codes of practice set by the Human Tissue Authority and the guidelines developed by DCMS. RAMM has also produced a policy related to its acquisition & disposal policy.