Finsch Pacific Expeditions (1879-1885)
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Otto Finsch (1839-1917)
Otto Finsch, a German ornithologist, collected over 1,000 objects during two expeditions to the Melanesian islands of New Guinea, New Britain and New Ireland, and to the Caroline Islands, Gilbert Islands, and Marshall Islands. Amongst the objects he collected are elaborately carved and painted masks from New Ireland, and trumpets made from beautiful conch shells.
In addition to the objects he collected during his Pacific expeditions, Otto Finsch compiled an extensive archive with several components: catalog cards, watercolor paintings, photographs, drawings, and a manuscript. Thus far, the catalog cards (2,500), the watercolor paintings (200), and the manuscript (1,600 pages) have been scanned. The catalog cards have been cross-referenced to many of the 1,000 objects in the collection and the manuscript pages have been cross-referenced to the watercolors. Finsch divided the catalog cards, the watercolors, and the manuscript into subject categories such as "dwellings", "tools", or "skin decoration" and separated them into different boxes: eighteen boxes for the card catalog, thirty-five boxes for the watercolor paintings (the watercolors, matted and covered with glass, take up much more space than the catalog cards), and eight boxes for the manuscript.
The Finsch archive is very legibly written in German, and it is hoped that someday it will be translated into English. Scanning and translating the Finsch archive is a work in progress, and more components of the archive will become available as time and resources permit.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to volunteer Gustavo Braga and interns Julie Carlsen, Kate Reutershan, and Michaela Warshaw for their assistance in the preservation and description of this collection.
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