Fiji's Treasured Culture: Highlighting the collections of Museum Victoria

About this Project

This website is a Museum Victoria and Fiji Museum online collaboration, presenting artefacts from the world class collection at Museum Victoria. Reproductions of historical images from Fiji Museum’s impressive collection add cultural and historical meaning to the objects.

Long recognised as consummate craftsmen and women, Fijians were renowned for the beauty and durability of their basketry and bags, water containers, fans, skirts, signal and dance drums, combs, headrests and more.

Also known for the range of its weaponry, particularly clubs, Fiji has been drawn as a violent society, but behind the observation lays a much fuller story. Like many cultures in the Pacific, rank and prestige are paramount, and it was, and is, violations to the codes of conduct and behaviour governing prestige which ultimately led the chiefly ranks in declaring hostilities one against another. Warfare was ultimately sanctioned by all-powerful priests whose soothsaying was expressed through the rituals of kava and cannibalism.

Pieces of this story are revealed as you browse through the artefacts and historical photographs making up this website. Fine ornaments made from shell, teeth and bone also have social restrictions—many may only be worn by chiefs. Various forms of clubs are seen, some of which are restricted for use by the chiefly class. Priests' oil dishes and kava bowls made from the finest of sacred woods are shown in their contexts of ritual and social use. The intricacies of bark cloth production and their ritual uses are revealed.


Sagale Buadromo and Dr Ron Vanderwal at collection store. Sagale Buadromo and Dr Ron Vanderwal.
Sagale Buadromo examining objects at collection store. Examining objects at collection store.

This project, led by Dr Ron Vanderwal, Senior Curator in Indigenous Cultures (Museum Victoria) and Sagale Buadromo, Director of the Fiji Museum, emerged from a Memorandum of Understanding created in 1999 between the two institutions. Project development began in 2001 with the selection and digital imaging of objects from the world class collection at Museum Victoria. The following year photographs were selected for reproduction from Fiji Museum’s impressive collection to add cultural and historical meaning to the objects.

The following people have contributed their time and expertise to the project. At Fiji Museum: Sagale Buadromo (Director), William Copeland (Collections Photographer), Jone Naucabalavu (Head of Archaeology), Joana Roqica and Roxi Mandem (Exhibitions).

At Museum Victoria: Dr Ron Vanderwal (Senior Curator Indigenous Cultures), Janet Marlow and Louise Partos (Project Management), Alex Chubaty and Ely Wallis (Collection Information Management Systems), Penny Ikinger and Melanie Raberts (Indigenous Cultures Collection Management), Rodney Start (Media Production), Craig Churchill, Patrick Worsley, Veronica Scholes and Nicole Stewart (Online Publishing), Forbes Hawkins (Information Technology Services) and Crispin Howarth (Discovery Centre).

Thanks also to Dr Rod Ewins for being available and for much interpretive information.

© Museum Victoria Australia