A partial re-fit to the galleries took place at the end of 2011. This permitted some of the displays to include fresh content and highlight some of the most recent acquisitions.
Fresh content can be found in the displays of the three faiths; Buddhism, Hindusim and Islam & the Arab World. There are also three cases that celebrate the royal arts of West Africa and these feature rarely seen scupture, ceramics, textiles and metalwork. Recent post-graduate research (AHRC collaboration) into one particular donor, Hatton & Cookson trader Richard E. Dennett, also receives new interpretation.
What's new in the World Cultures gallery?
Africa - there are three cases in the gallery that celebrate the royal arts of West Africa. Kingship in this part of the world was often expressed through art and architecture. These royal arts often emphasised themes of power through the incorporation of rare and prestigious materials such as metals and ivory, even cloth. Kingship is defined in a variety of ways but includes military authority, legitimacy, social hierarchy and wealth. These four qualities are reflected in some of the items on display in three cases. These displays illustrate the skills still employed in the ceramic, carving, weaving and metalwork traditions.
Americas - fresh content includes Aztec clay stamps, traditional clothing from Mexico and Guatemala, and a wonderful arch lute or banjon carved in the Mende tradition of Sierra Leone. This instrument was acquired from Cartagena, Colombia and donated to the museum in 1870! The display also includes ceramics from the north coast of Peru.
Asia - separate to those displays on faith, there is a case dedicated to the arts of the Asian continent. One long case contains 19th century export-ware ceramics from China and Japan, a contemporary example of Japanese lacquerware made by Suzuki Mutsumi, silver items from a Malay betel nut set, early textiles from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and a protective bone amulet from Sumatra written in Batak script.
Pacific - the Oceania displays remain much the same with historic material from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Easter Island and Tahiti (Society Islands). They include items that were acquired from the voyages of the SS Mildura, Southern Cross and Curacoa also items directly linked to Captain Cook and Francis Godolphin Bond of the HMS Providence. Bond obtained some rare items on his naval journeys such as a Tahitian mourner's costume or heiva tupapa'u.