English art dealer William Oldman amassed a significant collection of Māori and Pacific artefacts in the first half of the 20th century. He purchased the items from museums in the northern hemisphere and never actually visited the Pacific. New Zealand scholars visited him at his home in London to study the collection and the New Zealand-based Polynesian Society published annotated catalogues. The level of interest they showed contributed to Oldman's decision to sell his collection to the New Zealand government in 1948.
Once in New Zealand much of the collection was distributed between the country's four major museums – the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa), the Canterbury Museum and the Otago Museum – with some items going to smaller regional museums. Watch this National Film Unit clip to see some of Oldman's artefacts when they were still in his home.
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Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: New Zealand Mirror 11. National Film Unit, 1951.
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