In this thesis I investigate the underlying paradigms which informed the assemblage of early ethnographic collections and the systematic biases that result from these paradigms. It is suggested that the act of collecting may be understood as part of the process whereby individuals recreate the world according to their own interests and, in this way, impose their preferred vision on others.
These concepts are explored by examining the values and beliefs of a specific collector (Dr W.E. Roth - Protector of Aborigines for the Northern District of Queensland between 1898 and 1904) and the corresponding affects on the contents of the collection he created (the 'Roth Collection', housed in the Australian Museum, Sydney and the Queensland Museum, Brisbane). This case study illustrates processes which obscure or bias the museum cultural record in general. Discussion highlights the 'text-like' nature of ethnographic collections and their ability to not only reflect, but also affect, perceptions, beliefs and the control of classification and meaning.