- Also known as
Rev James Chalmers
primary name: Chalmers, James
- individual; cleric/religious official; British; Male
- Life dates
- Chalmers was a Scottish member of the London Missionary Society who worked in Rarotonga (Cook Islands) before undertaking pioneering work in Papua New Guinea between 1877 and 1901. His quest to establish peaceful contact and assemble botanical and geographic information, particularly around the Papuan Gulf, was reflected in his published articles and books. It seems Chalmers was not unaware of his somewhat paradoxical situation – working to mitigate the impact of an inevitable outside intrusion of which he was a part – and can be seen as part of an emergent late 19th and early 20th Century missionary-scholar movement. See also Codrington, Holmes, Emma Hadfield and Ivens (q.v.). He carried out a number of expeditions to penetrate remote districts of the Fly River and in 1901, despite declining health, undertook an expedition to Goaribari Island where he and his party were captured and killed.
The Museum has 201 objects collected by Chalmers, all from Oceania of which 197 are from Papua New Guinea) and include 37 masks, a variety of body ornaments, arrows and decorated boards.
See AOA Ethdoc 1176 for copies of documents relating to a collection held by his stepson, Rev Harrison Chalmers, which was given to the BM by Mrs Wolvekamp and Mrs Haskew in 1976.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Langmore, D., 1974, Tamate, A King: James Chalmers in New Guinea 1877-1901, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Langmore, D., 1989. Missionary Lives: Papua, 1874-1914, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.