- Harry Geoffrey Beasley
- Also known as
Harry Geoffrey Beasley
primary name: Beasley, Harry Geoffrey
- individual; collector; British; Male
- Life dates
- Cranmore Ethnographic Museum, Walden Road, Chislehurst, Kent (1928-41)
Exedene, Topsham, Devon
- Major collector of ethnographical objects. Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1881 – 1939) was a wealthy brewery owner whose private collecting passion began when, aged 13, he bought two Solomon Island clubs. In 1914 was elected to the Royal Anthropological Institute with which, in different capacities, he maintained an association until 1937. He was a close friend of T A Joyce of the British Museum. He and his wife, Irene, established the Cranmore Ethnographic Museum in Chislehurst, Kent where they had moved in 1928, compiling the Cranmore Index of Pacific Material Culture based on James Edge-Partington’s Index for the British Museum and forming a considerable library.
Although the Beasleys owned artefacts from around the world, their main focus was always the Pacific. As he wrote in a letter to Leeds in November 1931 "We specialise in the study of the Pacific regions, with a few side lines such as Tibet and Benin". To this was added later in the 1930s north America, but objects from other regions were often used for making exchanges. Objects were acquired from dealers, missionaries and from, or in exchanges with, various museums. Beasley’s comprehensive monograph on Oceanic fish-hooks was published in 1928.
The Cranmore Museum was damaged by bombing in World War 2 and in accordance with Beasley’s will his widow, Irene M Beasley (q.v), offered the first selection of the collection (apart from a limited reservation for herself) as a donation to the Museum. The gift of over two thousand items became fully effective in 1944. Other beneficiaries include the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford; The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge; and the National Museums, Scotland.
Beasley's four manuscript acquisition ledgers were given to the BM by Irene Beasley in 1975 (now housed in the CFA). His Oceanic acquisitions were numbered sequentially from 1 (in 1898) onwards, the last in his hand being 4712 on 22.2.1938. The non-Oceanic material was recorded chronologically on the facing left-hand page, but was not numbered. The entries record where and when he had acquired the object, and the price paid. He used a price code based on MANCHESTR (so A=2, C=4, E=6, H=5, M=1, N=3, O=0, R=9, S=7, T=8).
The register numbers given to the collection in the BM do not correspond to those in the ledgers, and were:
Oc1944,02.1 to 2123
Am1944,02.1 to 399
Af1944,04.1 to 337
As1944,03.1 to 177
The BM register entries often record Beasley's own catalogue numbers (if found on labels on the objects), and this usually enables the provenance to be discovered.
- H.J. Braunholtz and A. Digby, 'The Beasley Collection', BMQ XV 1952, pp.103-5.
Hermione Waterfield and J.C.H.King, 'Provenance, twelve collectors of ethnographic art in England 1760-1990', Paris 2006
Lucie Carreau 'Collecting the Collector: Being an Exploration of Harry Geoffrey Beasley's Collection of Pacific Artefacts Made in the Years 1895-1939' (PhD thesis 2009 - Norwich, UEA)
Lucie Carreau, Journal of Museum Ethnography 23, 2010, pp.41-55 (based on her PhD UEA 2009)
Gaye Sculthorpe, Maria Nugent & Howard Morphy, 'Ancestors, artefacts, empire: indigenous Australia in British and Irish museums', London (BMPress) 2021