Guide to the Records of the British Museum (Natural History), Anthropology Library and Archive Section (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

British Museum of Natural History. Anthropology Library and Archive Section
Natural History Museum: Records of the Anthropology Library and Archive Section (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1884 - 1962
Collection Number
77 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Papers c.1884-1890 of Sir William Flower on physical anthropology.

Papers of George Williamson relating to his collection of human skulls.

Correspondence 1910-1957 of Anthropology Department, mostly relating to skeletal remains.

Subject files 1946-1962 of Anthropology Department.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the British Museum (Natural History), London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1989 (AJCP Reels: M2768-M2769). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Formerly known as British Museum (Natural History), the Museum Natural History Museum changed its name in 1992.

Existence and Location of Originals

Natural History Museum. Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, England

For more informations see Natural History Museum: Library and Archives (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.

This Finding Aid retains the identifiers present at the time it was filmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project. The new control numbers applied by the Natural History Museum have been identified where possible.

Advisory Statement

Australian Aboriginal, Maori, Pacific and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this Finding Aid contains material and descriptive information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. This Finding Aid contains terms that reflect authors' views or those of the historical period, but which may not be considered appropriate today. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.


Anthropologists; Anthropology; Australia; Flower, Sir William; Great Britain; Natural History Museum, London; New Zealand; Skeletal remains; South Africa; Williamson, George


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 58, p20.

Item Descriptions

Fonds. Bone Analysis

1 item

Filmed selectively.

Pages of Australian Series (3p.) (File)

[Gives measurements and site of discovery of specimen.

Fonds. Edward J. Dunn (1844-1937), 1901 - 1914

5 items

Collection of miscellaneous manuscripts.

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

Edward John Dunn (1844-1937) was born near Bristol and migrated with his parents to New South Wales in 1849. In 1860 he joined the Lands Survey Office in Melbourne and then transferred to the Geological Survey of Victoria in 1864. In 1871 he was appointed government geologist in the Cape Colony. He returned to Australia in 1886 and worked as a consulting geologist until he was appointed director of the Geological Survey of Victoria in 1904. He retired in 1912. His large collection of minerals, rocks and ethnological artefacts is in the Museum of Victoria.

Bibliography of D.J. Dunn's works, 1870-1926 and a list of his 'discoveries' of traces of glaciations, minerals, plants etc. in South Africa and Australia, 1862-1913 (11p.) (File 1)

Fragments of diary of his travels in Australia and New Zealand, 1901 - 1914 (File 2)

Includes notes of anthropological, geological and geographical interest. (10p.)

Draft of a letter to Geological Society, London, n.d. (File 7)

Re method of transmitting funds to the Society on his death via Union Trustees Co. of Melbourne. (1p.)

Stone implements: South Africa and New Zealand, notes on the type of stone chosen and the manufacture of tools (13p.), n.d. (File 9)

Methods of working in stone by different races of man, n.d. (File 10)

Includes general remarks and notes on Tasmania. (Typescript) (8p.)

Fonds. Sir William H. Flower F.R.S. (1831-1899)

28 items

Manuscripts and notes [on anthropology].

Biographical / Historical

Sir William Henry Flower (1831-1899) was educated at University College, London, and studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital. He served as a surgeon in the Crimean War. In 1862 he became curator of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons and in 1870 he succeeded Thomas Huxley as Hunterian professor of comparative anatomy. In 1884 he succeeded Sir Richard Owen as director of the British Museum (Natural History) and he also took on the post of keeper of zoology in 1895. He had a strong interest in structural anthropology. He retired in 1898.

Series A. Loose Papers and Lectures

13 items
Height and Proportions of Skeleton, n.d. (File 1)

Includes measurements of Australian skeletons. (7p.)

Transverse Sections of Hair, n.d. (File 2)

Gives measurements for samples from Australia, and several Pacific Islands. (1p.)

Pelvis. Description and measurements, n.d. (File 3)

Includes: Australian and Pacific Island examples. (65p.)

Orbital Index, n.d. (File 4)

Includes: Tasmanian and Polynesian examples. (11p.)

Nasal Index, n.d. (File 5)

Includes: Australian and Pacific Island examples. (14p.)

Introductory lecture. General introduction to the history of the Science of Anthropology, n.d. (File 6)

Includes early description of 'Australoid Type'. (34p.)

Basilar Angle of Broca, n.d. (File 8)

Includes measurement of Australian examples (10p.)

Age of Skulls (5p.), n.d. (File 9)
Stature, n.d. (File 10)

Includes Australians and Malay examples. (19p.)

Colour of Skin and Hair, n.d. (File 11)

Includes: Malay and Polynesian examples. (11p.)

Lectures on the Principal Types of mankind (Lecture 1), 25 February 1884 (File 12)

Includes comparative material on Malays and Polynesians. (39p.)

Man, Zoologically Considered, n.d. (File 13)

Includes comparison of Malays and Polynesians. (6p.)

The Smallest Races of Man, n.d. (File 14)

Includes examples from the Pacific. (17p.)

Series. Folders

14 items

The Folders contain Sir William's working papers, rough notes, measurements and sketches. All contain material on Australian and Pacific Island peoples.

Printed material was not filmed by the AJCP.

General Craniology (88p.) (File 1)

Includes: Methods and results of measurement of the capacity of crania by William Henry Flower. (9p.)

Proportions of Limb Bones (46p.) (File 2)
Naso-Molar Angle (37p.) (File 3)
Artificial Deformity (54p.) (File 4)
Dentition (65p.) (File 1)
Papuan (File 2)

Includes notes on five Papuan mummy skeletons, and notes on The People of Melanesia. (51p.)

Tasmanian (File 3)

Includes notes for lectures on characteristics of Tasmanian Indigenous Australians, and measurements of Tasmanian bones. (68p.)

New Zealanders or Maoris (3p.) (File 5)
Melanesians (29p.) (File 6)
Chinese and Japanese (File 9)

Includes comparative data from Malaya and Borneo. (30p.)

Polynesians (File 12)

Includes material on New Zealand. (41p.)

Australians (File 13)

Includes lecture notes on characteristics of Indigenous Australians. (69p.)

Africa (File 14)

Includes comparative data on Australians and Pacific Islanders. (70p.)

America (File 15)

Includes comparative data on Australians and Pacific Islanders. (36p.)

Series. Loose Papers

1 item

Filmed selectively.

Sheets of statistics on Indo-Malay Archipelago Australia, Melanesian Islands (9p.) (File)

Fonds. Gregory M. Mathews (1876-1949), 1939

1 item

Biographical / Historical

Gregory Macalister Mathews (1876-1949), the son of the ethnologist Robert Mathews, was born in New South Wales and educated at Singleton Grammar School and the King's School, Parramatta. He and his wife moved to England in 1902 and remained there until 1939. He had collected birds' eggs as a boy and in England he embarked on an exhaustive study of Australian birds. Birds of Australia was published in 12 volumes between 1910 and 1927. He lived in Canberra in 1940-45.

G.M. Mathews (Winchester) to C.D. Sherborn (Geologist and Palaeontologist, 1861-1942), 1 March 1939 - 3 March 1939 (File)

Re presenting his ornithological library to the [National Library of] Australia. (2 letters)

Fonds. Rosemary Powers, 1957 - 1961

3 items

Anthropology. Newspaper cuttings collected by R. Powers. (10 Vols)

Biographical / Historical

Rosemary Powers was a member of the staff of the Sub-Department of Anthropology at the British Museum (Natural History).

Cannibalism, 1959 - 1960 (File 1)

Pages on cannibalism in Tasmania, New Guinea and New Zealand with cuttings from Reveille and Sunday Express. (2p.)

Archaeology Abroad, 1957 - 1961 (File 2)

Pages from Far East Section on discoveries in Sarawak and North Borneo with cuttings from Sunday Times, Radio Times, Daily Telegraph, Observer, News Chronicle. (19p.)

Living Races, c.1958-1964 (File 3)

Sections on Polynesia and Australia with cuttings from New Scientist, Daily Telegraph, Times, Evening News, Observer, Sunday Times.

Subjects include: New Guinea, Maoris, Easter Island, Indigenous Australians. (24p.)

Fonds. George Williamson, 1857-1927[?]

6 items

Material on the Williamson Collection of human skulls. 5 Items

Biographical / Historical

George Williamson (1819-1865) was born in Peeblesshire, Scotland, and gained his medical degree at Edinburgh University. He entered the Army Medical Service in 1841 and was promoted to the rank of surgeon (1849) and surgeon-major (1851). He served in India, Turkey, Russia and the Cape Colony. He prepared a catalogue of over 450 human skulls held in the Army Medical Department at Chatham which was published in summary form in 1857.

G. Williamson. Observations on the human crania contained in the Museum of the Army Medical Department, Fort Pitt, Chatham, (1857?-1908) (File 1)

10 items

Manuscript. (Damaged, faint in places)

[Edition published in 1857 by McGlashan and Gill in Dublin, does not include all the comparative tables.]

See 141/34 for correspondence.

Filmed selectively.

General introduction and index (Item ff. 3r-6r)
New Caledonian skulls (Item ff. 64r-65l)
Australia, Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Malay Archipelago (Item ff. 90r-101r)
[Named] criminals executed in New South Wales (Item ff. 107r-109l)
Tables of anatomical measurements (Item ff. 127l-128r)
[Analysis of measurements] (Item ff. 130l-133l)
Appendix on additional murderers and Australian native skulls (Item ff. 133r-134l)
Appendix on additional murderers and Australian native skulls (Item ff. 138l-139r)
Appendix on additional murderers and Australian native skulls (Item ff. 141l-142r)
Appendix on additional murderers and Australian native skulls (Item ff. 143r-145l)

Williamson Collection of Human Crania Revised Catalogue prepared at Oxford by F.H.S. Knowles (and) Professor A. Thomson Manuscript, 1910 (File 2)

9 items

Filmed selectively.

Explanatory notes on the classification of the collection (2p.) (Item)
Maps (2p.) (Item)
Index (2p.) (Item)
Indo-Malay Archipelago (2p.) (Item)
Australia (4p.) (Item)
Melanesia (2p.) (Item)
Micronesia (1p.) (Item)
Polynesia (5p.) (Item)
Miscellaneous (Probably New Zealand) (2p.) (Item)

Catalogue of Skulls in the Williamson Collection. Royal Army Medical College. Millbank (Volume 1), n.d. (File 3)

3 items

Filmed selectively.

Index (1p.) (Item)
Europe (Includes details of murderers from Hobart) (2p.) (Item)
Indo-Malay Archipelago (2p.) (Item)

Catalogue of Skulls in the Williamson Collection. Royal Army Medical College. Millbank (Volume 2) (File)

6 items

Filmed selectively.

Index (1p.) (Item)
Australia (4p.) (Item)
Melanesia (2p.) (Item)
Micronesia (1p.) (Item)
Polynesia (5p.) (Item)
Miscellaneous (Probably New Zealand) (2p.) (Item)

Catalogue of [Skulls] in the Department of Human Anatomy, Oxford (Volume 1), n.d. (File 4)

6 items

Gives place and date skull found and various measurements.

Filmed selectively.

Index (3p.) (Item)
Indo-Malay Archipelago (Item ff. 16-17)
Australia (Item ff. 33-36)
Melanesia (Item ff. 37-38)
Micronesia (Item ff. 39)
Polynesia (Item ff. 40-42)

Catalogue of crania illustrating the various races of mankind (University Museum, Oxford) (Volume 2. Europe - South Africa), 1927[?] (File 5)

4 items

Gives place and date skull found. Filmed selectively.

Asia - Indo-Malay Archipelago (Item ff. 84-85 (iii))
Polynesia (including New Zealand) (Item ff. 86-90A (iv))
Australia (Item ff. 109-117)
Melanesia (including Tasmania) (Item ff. 118-123A)

See also DF 141/34.

Fonds DF 140. Anthropology Department: Correspondence

25 items

Series 140/1. W.P. Pycraft Correspondence, 17 January 1910 - 1944

11 items

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

William Plane Pycraft (1868-1942) was born in Great Yarmouth. From 1882 to 1898 he was the assistant to Edwin Ray Lancaster, the professor of comparative anatomy at Oxford University. He accompanied Lancaster to South Kensington in a private capacity when Lancaster became director of the British Museum (Natural History) in 1898. Pycraft formally joined the Museum in 1907 and was put in charge of osteology. He was best known for his many popular books on natural history, such as The story of bird-life (1900), The story of reptile life (1905), The courtship of animals (1913), Camouflage in nature (1925) and Birds in Great Britain and their natural history (1934).

W.L. Crowther (Hobart) re collection of Tasmanian aborigional skulls and bones for sale, 17 January 1910 (File f. 9)
Eric Reed (London) re collection of Tasmanian aboriginal skulls (see also Cotton), 12 August 1912 - 31 August 1912 (File ff. 10-13)
Note re mummy of Torres Straits Islander. Includes extracts from letter to Dr Gunther from donor John Douglas (File f. 23)

See also: Correspondence with G.L.Pretty. DF 141/106.

Warren Dawson (London) re Torres Straits mummy, 24 February 1924 (File f. 24)
List of specimens ethnological collected by D.W.Gaukrodger, Alice Downs, Blackall (1p.), 1923 - 1944 (File f. 54)
Norman Herbert (London) re Maori skull found on his sheep station, Taurimu, at Turakina in 1888 (2p.), 10 October 1924 (File f. 56)
Department of Internal Affairs (Wellington) re export permit for Maori skulls, 14 April 1925 (File ff. 57-58)
G.C.Wheeler (London) re skulls found at Wagina Island, Solomon Islands, 15 August 1930 (File ff. 84-85)
H.H.Scott (Launceston) re casts of Tasmanian aboriginal skulls, including that of 'Cobia' shot by police in 1844, 28 March 1930; 28 August 1930; 25 November 1930; 27 November 1930; 18 February 1930 (File ff. 124-132)
W.H.Farrar (Niugooloo Station, W.A.) re aboriginal skulls, 8 June 1914 (File ff. 250-251)
J.Cotton (Triabunna, Tasmania) re Maori heads for sale, 22 April 1914; 2 April 1914 (File ff. 258-261)

(See also Reed)

Series 140/2. F.C.Fraser Correspondence, 19 August 1934 - 20 September 1935

2 items

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Charles Fraser (1903-1978) was educated at Glasgow University. From 1925 to 1933 he worked in the Antarctic as the zoologist on the research vessels Discovery and William Scoresby. He joined the British Museum (Natural History) in 1933 and carried out extensive research on the biology and taxonomy of cetaceans. He was keeper of zoology from 1967 to 1964 and retired in 1969.

H.H.Scott (Launceston), 19 August 1934 - 17 January 1935 (File 1934/11)

Re photographes of Tasmanian Indigenous Australians, together with key to Indigenous Australians in 'Bay of Fires' by Robert Dowling, 1859. (8p.)

N.W. Gregory Walker (London), 20 September 1935 (File 1935/5)

Re photographes of Indigenous Australians he obtained in Adelaide from Holden, who had recently been on an expedition to Central Australia.

Series 140/3. F.C.Fraser Correspondence, 30 July 1936 - 3 February 1937

4 items

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Charles Fraser (1903-1978) was educated at Glasgow University. From 1925 to 1933 he worked in the Antarctic as the zoologist on the research vessels Discovery and William Scoresby. He joined the British Museum (Natural History) in 1933 and carried out extensive research on the biology and taxonomy of cetaceans. He was keeper of zoology from 1967 to 1964 and retired in 1969.

G.C.Wheeler (London) re skulls from Solomon Islands he has given to the museum, 30 July 1936 (File 1936/10)
BM(NH). Ack, 7 August; 24 August 1936 (File)
Frank Steadman (London) re Tasmanian skulls (4p.), 9 December 1936 - 29 December 1936 (File 1936/16)
Joan M.Aspinall (Aughton) re skulls found at ancient burial ground 18 miles from Chaffey, S.A. (5p.), 19 January 1937 - 3 February 1937 (File 1937/1-4)

Series 140/4. F.C.Fraser Correspondence, 26 October 1948 - 11 October 1949

4 items

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Charles Fraser (1903-1978) was educated at Glasgow University. From 1925 to 1933 he worked in the Antarctic as the zoologist on the research vessels Discovery and William Scoresby. He joined the British Museum (Natural History) in 1933 and carried out extensive research on the biology and taxonomy of cetaceans. He was keeper of zoology from 1967 to 1964 and retired in 1969.

Alphonse Riedenfeld (New York) requesting details of their skeletal material from Melanesia, 26 October 1948 (File)
BM(NH) reply, listing material in the collections, 2 December 1948 (File)
W.J.Phillips (Dominion Museum, Wellington) requesting copies of photographs of Maoris, 4 August 1949 (File)
BM(NH) reply that the Museum's photographic collection was damaged during the war, 11 October 1949 (File)

Series 140/7. K.P.Oakley Correspondence, F - W

4 items

Filmed selectively.

Biographical / Historical

Kenneth Page Oakley (1911-1981) was born in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and educated at University College, London. He worked with the Geological Survey before joining the geology department of the British Museum (Natural History) in 1935. He was initially responsible for some of the invertebrate groups, but in 1954 he was placed in charge of the anthropological sections of the departments of geology and zoology. He was a key figure in proving that the skull of the Piltdown Man was a hoax. Among his books were Man the toolmaker (1949) and Frameworks for dating fossil man (1964).

Subseries. Folder Noone, 18 June 1957 - 11 December 1957
4 items
Correspondence between K.P.Oakley and Herbert Vander Vard Noone (Killeney, Vichy, Nice, London, North Adelaide, Bandarawela, Ceylon) (15 letters), 3 January 1949 - 15 February 1954? (File 1)

Subjects include: Tool making, locations in Australia of exchange material from Australian Museum, taking of a photograph of Austrobo stone-working site.

Includes: Notes on Upper Palaeolithic Climatic sequence.

Correspondence between Norah Noone (Walmer, Kent) and K.P. Oakley (6 letters), 29 September (1956?) - 10 January (1959?) (File 2)

Subjects include: Her sons, her husband's career.

Norman Tindale (South Australian Museum, Adelaide) to Oakley an appreciation of Noone, 18 June 1957 (File 3)
Oakley (BM(NH)) to Gale de G. Sieveking (BM), sending collection of Late Stone Age artifacts from Ceylon collected by Noone, 11 December 1957 (File 4)

Fonds DF 141. Anthropology Department: Subject files, 20 March 1946 - 13 December 1966

8 items

Filmed selectively.

W.G.Trotman (Caves Reserve, Naracoorte) re present whereabouts of a mummified Indigenous Australian found in the Big Cave, Naracoorte in 1859, 11 June 1952 - 21 June 1952 (File 17 [GL 1952/55])

Includes reply to Trotman: that his mummy is not in the Museum.

Frank Ellis (Launceston) re his survey of extant skeletal and preserved remains of Tasmanian Indigenous Australians, 3 June 1953 - 10 June 1953 (File 26 [GL 1953/50])

Includes reply to Ellis with a list of the Museum's collections.

Kenneth Pawson (Nuku'alofa) sending specimens from Tonga (copy), 7 June 1953 - 21 November 1953 (File 27 [GL 1953/77])

Includes reply Kenneth Pawson (Launceston) sending skull from Maka'a Island.

Correspondence on the Williamson collection of skulls, which includes Australian material (24p., 20 March 1946 - 19 December 1957 (File 35 [AL 1954/15A])

[see Williamson material in Library Section]

Correspondence on Torres Straits mummies and decorated heads (21p.), 27 April 1962 - 22 July 1960 (File 106 [AL 1962/7])

Correspondents Include: T.F.Spence (Birmingham) re Dyak trophy skulls; Douglas Newton (New York) re skulls from New Guinea formally in collections of Royal College of Surgeons; Graeme Pretty (Adelaide) re mummies from Torres Straits; includes drawing of BM(NH) specimen and notes on specimens held. See also DF 140/1 f. 23.

Everett Collection, Sarawak (51p.), 8 April 1959 - 23 October 1959 (File 109 [AL 1959/20])

Correspondence between BM(NH) and Tom Harrisson (Sarawak Museum) re collection of remains from Sarawak Caves forwarded to the Museum by A.Hart Everett; possible sharp practice by Everett and connection with Dawson in Piltdown Hoax.

New Zealand anthropology (15p.), 10 September 1958 - 13 December 1966 (File 116)

Includes: Correspondence with Cecil M.Bevan (Minehead) re skull of Maori brought back from New Zealand by H.White Wickham.

F.A.Robinson (Clevedon) re his visit in 1894-1895 to Chatham Islands and the Moriou teeth he picked up, 9 February 1953 - 16 February 1953 (File 139 [GL 1953/15])

Includes reply to Robinson suggesting teeth be returned to New Zealand.