A. W. F. Fuller Collection


In 1958, Roland Force, PhD., Field Museum's Pacific Curator between 1956 and 1961, went to London to meet with a man who had amassed a collection of Pacific artifacts unparalleled amongst his fellow collectors.

 

Captain A. W. F Fuller was what some today would call an armchair anthropologist, although in his own era Fuller’s passion for collecting was eccentric, but not unknown.  A British “land captain,” he set out to be a barrister but was quickly overcome with his lust for ethnographic artifacts from the South Pacific.  Despite his love for these objects and the information they seemed to convey, Fuller never left the armchair. He never saw the Pacific Ocean.

 

Instead, every day from noon until three o’clock in the morning, Fuller arranged and rearranged his items.  He cataloged and described.  He went to auctions and tried to outbid his rival collectors.  He went to antique stores and was thrilled for weeks after he found an object on sale for far less than its worth.  In fact, Fuller proposed to his wife beside his favorite object in the British Museum and cut their honeymoon short to attend an ethnographic auction.

 

Every day of his life from 1915 through 1958 was occupied with the clubs, nose flutes, wooden bowls, dancing paddles, and hundreds of other types of objects from across Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia.  Fuller collected through two world wars, the rise of Hitler, the London Blitz, and the beginning of the atomic age.

 

After much anxiety about where his collection should go upon his death, Fuller finally settled on the Field Museum, a place he knew would have enough space and interest to house and display his collection properly.

 

Arrival Day

The Fuller Collection from England arrives at the Museum in 1958 (© The Field Museum)

Fuller Collection No. 1293

Sling stones and carrying bag from New Caledonia (© Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum)

Click here to see a photoshow of objects from the A. W. F. Fuller Collection.