Up close and personal: James Edge-Partington in Australia in 1897. In From Field to Museum—Studies from Melanesia in Honour of Robin Torrence, ed. Jim Specht, Val Attenbrow, and Jim Allen
British ethnologist, collector and author, James Edge-Partington visited Australia twice in the late 19th century. His first Australian sojourn was marked by sight-seeing and social events, with his travels interrupted by side trips to Fiji and Tonga, where he developed a passion for artefact collecting. In contrast, his second journey was focused on gathering information and sketching Pacific Islander and Australian Aboriginal artefacts held in museums and private collections. These drawings were later published between 1890 and 1898 in three volumes that became a major reference source for museum curators and researchers. This paper outlines Edge-Partington’s 1879–1881 visit before focusing on his 1897 trip which included visits to five public museums and one university museum and produced more than 600 sketches of cultural material. This trip also produced many drawings of objects held in private collections. The paper documents Edge-Partington’s visit to the Queensland Museum where he spent most of his time examining and sketching objects from the field collection of Sir William MacGregor, the colonial administrator of British New Guinea. Edge-Partington’s motives for focusing on this particular collection rather than others held by the Museum are discussed and the possibility that Edge-Partington later acquired artefacts from the MacGregor assemblage for his personal collection is also considered. The paper shows how his sketches can be used to improve the documentation for existing museum collections, such as the MacGregor collection that is now dispersed through several museums.