About Project

Among the Kunstkamera’s valuable ethnographic collections, a special place is occupied by collections built by the Russian scientist and traveler Nikolai Miklukho-Maclay (1846-1888). A biologist by education, Miklukho-Maclay has gradually shifted his scientific interests into the sphere of physical anthropology and ethnography. In 1870 he decided to go to New Guinea to study the indigenous population of the island. Subsequently, the geography of his research has vastly expanded and covered many under-explored corners of Oceania and Southeast Asia. However, it is the study of the Papuans of the north-eastern coast of New Guinea that brought him world fame. Miklukho-Maclay visited this region three times: in 1871-72 and 1876-77, having lived among the Papuans for a total of more than two and a half years, as well as in 1883. This locality, including the coastline of New Guinea between the Bay of Astrolabe and the peninsula of Huon, was named after him the Maclay Coast. Miklukho-Maclay’s ethnographic collections are also preserved in the Museum of History of the Russian Geographic Society and in the Museum of W. Macleay at the University of Sydney (Australia). In our Museum the Maclay’s collections totals to about 500 items, a significant part of which represents cultures of the peoples of New Guinea and some other regions of Melanesia. Their value is determined not only by the early collection time, but also by the fact that the collections were gathered for research purposes: they are not random acquisitions, but a selection that includes series of subjects from different spheres of culture with the goal of its all-round characterization. This catalog presents the culture and life of the Papuans of the Maclay Coast, which are part of the collection No. 168. The description of the collection is based on the collector's labels and the catalog from 1886. Drawings by Miklukho-Maclay occupy a prominent place in his scientific heritage. At the end of the 19th century drawing played an important role as a method of fixing the material, allowing the most accurate transfer of what was seen. Nikolay Miklukho-Maclay, who was a skilled drawer considered this type of source as an integral part of his work. The main collection of the traveler’s drawings is kept in the Russian Geographical Society, some collections have the Research Institute and the Museum of Anthropology named after D.N. Anuchin in Moscow and the St. Petersburg branch of the Archive of the Academy of Sciences. Our collection is relatively small, about 50 items, but it is quite representative. Much of the work is done specifically for visual demonstrations during lectures read by the traveler in St. Petersburg in 1886. The researcher selected which item to draw in order to characterize the traditional culture of the Papuans most clearly. Of undoubted interest are portraits of representatives of various nationalities with accurate anthropological and individual characteristics of the model. Identification of the drawings and their correlation with the texts were done in different years in the course of preparation for the publication of the researcher's works.