Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Cooke Daniels Expedition

Heather Donoghue of the University of East Anglia Sainsbury Research Centre recently visited to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Her aim was to further her research on all the objects in UK and Australian museums collected on the Cooke Daniels exhibition more than a century ago.

The Cooke Daniels Expedition visited British New Guinea in 1903 and 1904. Major William Cooke Daniels (d.1918), Professor Charles Gabriel Seligman (1873 - 1940), Dr Walter Mersh Strong (1873-1946) and Mr A. H. Dunning undertook the expedition. 

The Pitt Rivers Museum has 174 objects collected during the exhibition. To search these objects on the Museum's object collections online database enter 'Cooke Daniels' in the 'PRM Source' field in the search criteria. 

1905.63.7'Carved board painted, representing 
conventionalized human form in squatting posture' 
collected from Goaribari Island during the expedition. 
On display in case 113.A in the Museum Court. 
Cooke Daniels was a wealthy American department store owner, world traveller and organiser of the expedition. Seligman was a British anthropologist who had trained as a medical doctor specialising in pathology. Mersh Strong, also a doctor, acted as laboratory assistant to Seligman. Dunning was responsible for photography and cinematic recording on the trip. 

Cooke Daniels financed the expedition after a chance meeting with Seligman on a fishing trip in Hampshire. The group also received a grant from the Royal Society towards the expedition expenses. Seligman had some relevant experience having travelled to New Guinea on a previous trip as a member of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits (the sea passage north of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea) in 1898 led by Alfred Cort Haddon.

The Cooke Daniels expedition explored British New Guinea, the south east area of modern-day Papua New Guinea. On route the party stopped in Australia. They visited the Bensbach River in the west, close to the border with Dutch New Guinea, travelled to Port Moresby (the capital) and visited Waima and Mekeo in the central district. The trip continued south east and then explored the smaller islands: the Trobriand group, Marshall Bennett Islands and Muyua Island. Cooke Daniels hired and schooner and launch to motor up creeks and sail around the islands. Mersh Strong resigned when the exhibition returned to Port Moresby. 

Seligman sent reports to the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain on the trip's progress. An article in the April 1905 issue of 'Science' reported that the exhibition had left for New Guinea in September 1903 and had just recently arrived back in England. 

Objects collected on the expedition now at Pitt Rivers include tools, weapons such as arrows and clubs, canoe prows and betel crushers, musical instruments including bullroarers and drums, lime spatulas, and ornaments made of shell, feathers, and wallaby teeth. Collections are also held at The British Museum, the Horniman Museum, the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Australian Museum. As well as a collecting objects and specimens, the expedition also made photographs, film footage and sound recordings. 

1905.63.62 & 1905.63.42, armlets in the making from the
Trobriand Islands collected during the expedition.
On display in case 117.B in the Museum's Lower Gallery.

Seligman sorted and divided the objects, then donated collections to museums on Cooke Daniels' behalf. Seligman and Merch Strong wrote up the findings of the expedition in two articles entitled 'Anthropogeographical Investigations in British New Guinea' appearing in 1906 in the Geographical Journal. Seligman went on to publish 'The Melanesians of British New Guinea' in 1910. 

Cooke Daniels was a partner in the Daniels and Fisher stores in Denver, Colorado. Some of his ashes were stored in a lead box in the tower of the well known department store building. Cooke Daniels was known as a world traveller in his day. His ashes moved when the store moved location. 

Seligman and his wife Brenda Seligman studied and taught Anthropology, researching communities in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Egypt, China and Japan.

1998.271.58, photograph of a black and white drawing
of Charles Gabriel Seligman by artist William Rothenstein

Madeleine Ding
Assistant Curator

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