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Oceania at the Tropenmuseum is not in the first place a book on art from Oceania, but rather a treatise on the coming into existence and growth of a well-known Oceanic collection, which started at the beginning of the 20th century with the bringing together of the collections of the Colonial Museum in the Dutch provincial town of Haarlem and the ethnographic collection of Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. The objects were, then and later on, brought together by early explorers, travellers, scientific expeditions, missionaries, Dutch government officials, ethnologists and collectors, most of them within the context of Dutch colonial presence in New Guinea, from where the majority of objects originate. During the last hundred years the intellectual approach to the collection changed from evidences of cultures in far-away places to the cultural heritage of world citizens, whose objects of art and material culture has been amassed during the colonial period of Western history. This richly illustrated book emphasizes this historical context and the way the objects were collected and presented to the public until today.
David van Duuren is an anthropologist. He worked at the Tropenmuseum from 1970 to 2010, most recently as the curator for the Oceania and historical collections.