Dance mask in the form of a human face of painted tin with pearlshell eyes attached in front and a fish of turtle-shell on top and on a wood box with red, white and black decoration, Oceania.


Contact details


Phone: +44 (0)20 7323 8041

Anthropology Library and Research Centre

Phone: +44 (0)20 7323 8031

The Oceania Section is part of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

It collects, researches, exhibits and publishes objects from the indigenous cultures of Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Most objects in the collection can be seen on the Museum's Collection online facility. There's also an extensive photographic archive which can be consulted online or through the Museum's Anthropology Library and Research Centre. 

The collections

The collections

The Oceania collection is one of the finest collections of artefacts and images from Oceania in the world. It includes historical and contemporary objects from across the Pacific Ocean.

Areas represented range from Australia and New Guinea through island Melanesia to Polynesia, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Micronesia. Countries include West Papua, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, French Polynesia and Hawai'i.

Collections derive from the earliest European voyages, including Cook's and later naval expeditions, as well as from missionaries, colonial officials, commercial interests, travellers and visiting researchers, including members of staff.

Recent acquisitions focus particularly on contemporary artefacts and historic photographs.

The section has a long history of working collaboratively with Pacific peoples to research, interpret and display the collections. It also commissions works from contemporary artists which reflect on issues facing the region today.



The section works closely with peoples from Oceania in its projects, both in their home countries and sometimes with diasporic communities living in the UK.

We host visitors from Oceania as part of various collaborative research and training programs and welcome the many visitors from the region who visit to view the collections.

Research projects

Research projects

The section researches the collections to make them accessible to Oceanic communities and to improve the British Museum's online database.

We publish new insights into the culture and history of the region, drawing also on data from other collections and archives around the world and working wherever possible with members of source communities at home and abroad.

Examples of previous research projects can be seen below. 

Research projects

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