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Living Spirits with Fixed Abodes

Living Spirits with Fixed Abodes: The Masterpieces Exhibition of the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery

Barry Craig
Mark Busse
Soroi Eoe
Editor Barry Craig
David Becker
Anthony L. Crawford
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Living Spirits with Fixed Abodes
    Book Description:

    On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s attainment of independence from Australia, Chief Minister Michael Somare referred to the new nation’s cultural treasures as "living spirits with fixed abodes." He was referring to the prevailing belief of Papua New Guineans that everything is invested with spirit, not least the objects carved, modeled, or constructed for ceremonial, and often everyday, use. The Masterpieces Exhibition includes the most significant cultural treasures on display at the Papua New Guinea’s national museum. This book gives the reader a thorough account of each of the exhibition’s 209 pieces. An introduction aims to give the general reader an idea of the significance of the objects and how they are to be understood. Other chapters provide a brief history of the museum and its role in forging national identity. Editor Barry Craig sets the individual works in their local context with historical and field photographs. The objects are dealt with under various headings: Watercraft, Architecture, Household Items, Gardening and Fertility Figures, Hunting and Warfare, Musical Instruments, Masks and Mortuary Objects.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6049-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Michael T. Somare

    With my interest in, and long association with, the National Museum and Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea, it gives me great pleasure to be involved once again in the promotion of Melanesian art and culture by making a few remarks in this outstanding publication,Living Spirits with Fixed Abodes.

    As the founding Prime Minister, and in the course of Papua New Guinea’s thirty years of nationhood, I have been concerned about the conservation, preservation and documentation of our rich heritage and the evolution of our art and culture in today’s rapidly changing world.

    My concern in part is that...

  4. Preface
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Thierry Bernadac and Jacques-Olivier Manent
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Barry Craig
  6. Maps
    (pp. x-xxii)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Barry Craig

    The Masterpieces Exhibition at the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery is intended to show Papua New Guineans, and overseas residents and visitors, some of the finest examples of the traditional cultural heritage of the country.

    Although there are some societies in Papua New Guinea where it is clear there were ‘master’ carvers or painters, sometimes with apprentices (for example, see Beier and Aris 1975; Beran 1996), most sculptures, paintings, war shields, masks and the like were made by people only a little more distinguished in their skills than their fellow villagers. Therefore it seems more appropriate to...

  8. Chapter 2 Short History of the Papua New Guinea National Museum
    (pp. 5-14)
    Mark Busse

    The history of the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery is a history of transformation from a colonial institution based on European ideas to a Papua New Guinean institution based on Papua New Guinean concepts and values. This transformation involved a change in the museum’s goals and rationale. The first museums in Papua and New Guinea were established to preserve objects from cultures that were believed to be disappearing. In the lead-up to Independence, the museum shifted its emphasis to documenting and protecting Papua New Guinea’s cultural heritage and encouraging contemporary cultural expression. This shift occurred because the...

  9. Chapter 3 The Work of the National Museum
    (pp. 15-17)
    Mark Busse

    The Preamble to the Constitution of Papua New Guinea recognises ‘the worthy customs and traditional wisdoms of our people – which have come down to us from generation to generation’, and pledges ‘to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions’.

    The National Museum and Art Gallery is a cultural, scientific and educational institution devoted to protecting and understanding the country’s cultural and natural heritage and preserving it for the people of Papua New Guinea and their descendants. It does this by assembling and preserving national collections of cultural, historical and natural history specimens, by carrying...

  10. Chapter 4 The Role of the National Museum in Contemporary Papua New Guinea Society
    (pp. 19-24)
    Soroi Marepo Eoe

    Museums are often associated with dinosaur skeletons, human skulls, stuffed animals and dusty old artifacts. For many Pacific peoples, dead should be buried; certain artifacts should be destroyed after they have been used in ceremonies. Museums in the Pacific still are seen today as a foreign, unfamiliar concept. The museum’s role as a scientific research and educational institution in the service of society has been little understood by the people in general or by government in particular. Government planners and finance people view museums as warehouses of forgotten relics. Why should scarce resources be used to maintain a museum when...

  11. Chapter 5 The ‘Masterpieces’ Exhibition
    (pp. 25-252)
    Barry Craig

    As noted in Chapter 1, the 209 exhibits have been grouped as much as possible according to function. However, this is partly a convenience for the purpose of display and there are many cases where objects could have been placed as easily in one category as in another.

    Most objects have several levels of significance and therefore may be considered as multi-functional. For example, a large wooden post is a support for a structure but may also be carved with the image of a founding clan ancestor who is appealed to for success in warfare and hunting.¹ A suspension hook...

  12. Appendix 1 Functions of the National Museum and Art Gallery
    (pp. 253-253)
  13. Appendix 2 Ethnographic Collections of the National Museum
    (pp. 254-264)
    Barry Craig
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-275)
  15. Sources of Illustrations
    (pp. 276-276)
  16. Sources of Masterpieces
    (pp. 277-277)
  17. Index of Masterpieces
    (pp. 278-279)
  18. General Index
    (pp. 280-286)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)