The Oceanian collections of the Museum include over 22,000 objects from all the major island groups of the Pacific (Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia), insular Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, Sulawesi, the Philippines), and Australia. The collections are mainly ethnographic, representing the material culture of the Pacific peoples from the mid-19th century to the present. These objects came to the Museum through gifts, purchases, and field acquisitions by Oceanian Section curators. An early assemblage of Polynesian material collected by C. D. Voy and a large number of objects acquired in Borneo and Sumatra by William H. Furness 3rd, Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., and H. M. Hiller were among the founding collections of the Museum. In the first two decades of the 20th century the collections from the Pacific Islands were greatly expanded by purchases from the dealers W. O. Oldman of London and J. F. G. Umlauff of Hamburg. Also acquired in this period were a Sepik River collection purchased from Max Boehmig of Dresden and Philippines materials collected by the sisters Elizabeth and Sarah Metcalf. Since then, the Oceanian Section collections have continued to grow, through donations and as a result of curatorial research in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. In 2003 the Section acquired over 900 objects from the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum, including materials from French Polynesia exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition and Philippine materials from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.

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