Elizabeth Bonshek

Senior Curator for Pacific Cultures

Dr Elizabeth Bonshek has worked in museums and with museum collections from the Pacific region since 1987. Her doctoral research was undertaken in Papua New Guinea, and she was awarded her degree with by the Australian National University.

Elizabeth’s research focuses on the material culture of the Pacific region, especially Melanesia, and upon both historical and contemporary collecting and indigenous responses to museum collections. She has also worked in Solomon Islands. Her publications include editorial contribution and authorship of Melanesia. Art and encounter (2013) a major book devoted to the Melanesian collections at the British Museum. Recent research has explored memory and silence in an interpretation of contemporary manufacture of museum collections (2016 “Making Museum Objects. A Silent Performance of Connection and Loss in Solomon Islands” in Beyond Memory. Silence and the Aesthetics of Remembrance (eds) Alexandre Dessingué and Jay Winter, Routledge).

She is currently working on a collaborative research grant titled Excavating Macgregor: re-connecting a colonial museum collection funded by the Australian Research Council which brings together researchers from University of Sydney, Australian Museum and Queensland Museum. Sir William MacGregor was the first Administrator of British New Guinea.  Sensing the impacts of colonisation MacGregor made a significant collection of objects between 1888 and 1898, specifically for its future citizens. This comprehensive legacy of 13000 objects did not remain in the country but was dispersed to three Australian and six overseas museums. The project aims to re-assemble and re-connect this material by 'excavating' its private and official components and investigate how indigenous groups used objects to negotiate with the new colonial government.

Excavating MacGregor website.