Discovering Worlds – Pacific

Discovering Worlds is RAMM's ambitious 2016-18 multi-partner project that explores the collection of artefacts from the Pacific islands, and the donors who brought them to Exeter.

Being formally farewelled (photograph: Salvador Brown) Commissioned in 2007, these tapa cloth trousers called Genealogy are being formally farewelled (photograph: Salvador Brown)
Young Marquesan in February 2001 with a shoulder tattoo representing the eyes of a tiki figure. Photo by J. Balfour-Paul

Young Marquesan in February 2001 with a shoulder tattoo of an ancestor. Photo by Jenny Balfour-Paul

Many distinct cultures and identities have resided on these islands for hundreds of years or longer as a result of human migration from SE Asia circa 3500 years ago.

Within the central and south region of the Pacific Ocean (approximately 3,450,000 square miles in size) one finds thirty thousand islands, of which only a small number are actually inhabited.

From the 16th century onwards, Europeans navigated these waters and from these initial encounters Europeans wanted to explore this part of the world.  Exploration and contact led to trade, which in turn led to colonialism and the coming of Christianity. These activities brought with them great change to indigenous culture and identity, and to existing economic and political structures.

Colonialism created the means by which material culture found its way to Exeter. Discovering Worlds is an attempt by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum to explore the stories behind them, so that we can learn more about the fascinating cultures of these Pacific peoples in the 18th and 19th centuries, but also about their legacy in the modern world.

This two-year project was funded by the Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund and RAMM’s Development Trust.