The Appeal of Urgency: Extinction Discourses, Myths and the Private Collectors of Australian Aboriginal Human Remains

Johanna Parker


Extinction presents as a narrative thread in the collecting of Australian Aboriginal human remains in Britain and Australia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Examples of this narrative are in the correspondence, research and the cataloguing methodologies of private individuals and their interaction with collecting institutions. This article focuses on three case studies that present three different private collecting profiles and intellectual environment interactions: Joseph Barnard Davis (1801–1881), Frederic William Lucas (1842–1932), and William Colin MacKenzie (1877–1938). All three have collections held by major collecting institutions in either Australia or England. These separate and diverse individuals are an important conduit to understanding why the application of the extinction narrative was a factor in transforming Australian Aboriginal human remains into prized specimens, sought by private individuals and public collecting institutions.


collecting, human remains, Aboriginal, extinction, museums

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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