Polly Bence

Curator: Oceania and Project Curator: Oceania - WCEC move

Department: Africa, Oceania and the Americas 


+44 (0)207 323 8040


Together with her colleagues in the section, Polly is responsible for the care of the Oceanic Collection – objects from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii and the many other Pacific Islands. Her responsibilities are to make the collections accessible to a diverse audience through research, visits, exhibitions and publications.

In her role as Curator she carries out curatorial work on the collection, helping to develop new exhibitions, selecting objects to be loaned, carrying out research and supervising volunteers. Polly works with colleagues across the Museum to showcase Oceanic material both on site and around the World.

In 2009-2010 Polly spent several months assisting the development of two permanent galleries now open in the newly refurbished National Museums Scotland. In 2011 she spent six months cataloguing a private collection of photographs taken in Australia and the Pacific in the early to mid-20th century.

Current projects

Polly is currently looking at the Museum’s collection of coconut fibre armour from Kiribati in Micronesia, with a view to producing an inventory of this type of material in other UK collections.

The department are also planning the move of the Oceanic collections into new onsite storage facility - the World Conservation and Exhibition Centre. This involves not only planning the new store but also the practical tasks that come before a physical move.

Previous projects projects

Polly’s past roles at the British Museum have included:

Project Curator for:

Kingdom of Ife: Sculptures from West Africa 

Indigenous Australian Histories 

Research Assistant on the Melanesia Project - an AHRC funded collaboration between the British Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge which has resulted in the forthcoming publication Melanesia: Art and Encounter.


London, a world city in 20 objects: No.3 Maori cloak from Aotearoa, 18 October 2012 

London - A World in 20 Objects: No. 19 Ilkurlka 2005, 7 February 2013 

Chapter forthcoming in an exhibition catalogue, ‘The Hadfield collection at the British Museum’ in James and Emma Hadfield, missionary couple in Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia 2014