Fishing technology from the Donald Thomson Collection, National Museum of Victoria : a contemporary re-analysis

Hugo, David F. (1983). Fishing technology from the Donald Thomson Collection, National Museum of Victoria : a contemporary re-analysis Master's Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Hugo, David F.
Thesis Title Fishing technology from the Donald Thomson Collection, National Museum of Victoria : a contemporary re-analysis
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1983
Thesis type Master's Thesis
Supervisor Peter Lauer
Total pages 202
Language eng
Subjects 1608 Sociology
Formatted abstract
The Donald F. Thomson Collection of Australian Aboriginal artefacts collected between 1928 and 1965 in Cape York, Central Australia and North-East Arnhem Land is housed in the National Museum of Victoria. The Collection is an amalgamation of three major components - the artefacts themselves, a large field note section and photographic evidence of all aspects of the artefacts. The Thomson Collection has only been available for detailed anthropological investigation since Thomson's death in 1970. Since 1973 the Thomson Collection has been on loan for a period of 25 years to the Museum from the University of Melbourne with the sanction of Thomson's widow who still maintains control over the field note and photographic components of the Collection. This present study analyses only a small section of the entire Thomson Collection - that section dealing with the fishing technology from the North-East Arnhem Land region. This technology has been divided into 13 functional classes or techniques for analysis and description. This descriptive analysis is seen as a vital first step which has recognisable limitations. The limitations of such an approach have been adequately expressed by the literature dealing with material culture studies based on extant museum collections. A summary of this literature is included.

While accepting that this section of the Thomson Collection is an outstanding example of an ethnographic study from the 1930's, the present study examines the possibility of updating the documentation of the Thomson Collection in the light of more recent developments in the study of material culture. To reveal any such shortcomings, Thomson's data on each of the 13 techniques is tested to see if it fulfils a set of 9 criteria concerning the manufacture and sociocultural use of the artefacts. The gaps revealed can be filled by contemporary ethnographic research.

It is argued that the chances of gathering this information from contemporary Aboriginal groups to fill these gaps, rapidly diminishes with the passage of time and therefore that periodic re-studying of Thomson's collection would enable its maximum potential to be realised as well as revealing aspects of cultural change among the North-East Arnhem Land communities of today.
Keyword Thomson, Donald F. (Donald Ferguson), 1901-1970
Aboriginal Australians

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