The fifth edition of the database on inscriptions and labels on Oceanic artworks in private collections has been put on the society’s database, under Collections, as usual. The database now covers about seventy identified inscriptions and labels and about fifty unidentified ones. Additions to the previous edition of the database are shown in blue.
The most interesting newly identified type of number is that of the Henry Wellcome collection, shown in Fig. 2, inscribed on the korwar sculpture shown in Fig. 1.
Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) was an American-British entrepreneur who founded the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Co in 1880. He amassed a huge collection of tribal art, some of which was still being catalogued long after his death. Much of the collection was dispersed to public and private collections.
Michael Hamson proposed that the R numbers, previously on the website as an unidentified collection, were used by the Wellcome collection. Roy Hamilton, Senior Curator of Asian and Pacific Collections at the Fowler Museum, which has many objects from the Wellcome collection, provided information which supported the proposal. And Chris Hilton, Senior Archivist of the Wellcome Collection, London, confirmed that these numbers were indeed used by the Wellcome collection (the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, as it then was) for a number of years.
It is not known what the R in the complex number stands for. The number above the horizontal line is the catalogue number of the object in the collection, the number below the line stands for the year the object was catalogued, or re-catalogued.
If you have Oceanic artworks with inscribed catalogue numbers or attached labels which are not on the database I would be glad to hear from you. And even more so if you can identify any of the collections which used one of the unidentified inscriptions or labels on the database.