‘Scarcely more than a Christian trophy case’? The global collections of the London Missionary Society museum (1814–1910)

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The museum at the London Missionary Society headquarters has been studied largely by those with an interest in early Polynesian missionary encounters, and has become famous as a repository for pre-Christian religious ‘idols’ given up by converts to Christianity. However, the museum also contained material from Africa, China, India, Madagascar and the Americas. This paper demonstrates some of the ways in which collections from different areas of the world reflected particular histories of local missionary activity, but also came to influence missionary collecting practices in other regions of the globe. Rather than attempting to characterize missionary collecting as a single practice, this paper pays attention to the collections of a single missionary museum: it aims to suggest some of the ways in which motivations for collecting and the significance of collections for the London Missionary Society shifted over the course of the long nineteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-128
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the History of Collections
Early online date20 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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