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Hall of Pacific Peoples

Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

Anthropologist and longtime Museum curator Margaret Mead provided the foundation for the hall that bears her name through her groundbreaking expeditions to Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali.

An anthropologist, teacher, and author of best-selling books, Mead worked in the Museum’s Division of Anthropology from 1926 until her death in 1978. Starting with her book Coming of Age in Samoa, her work brought anthropology into the public consciousness, teaching generations of Americans about the value of looking carefully and openly at other cultures.

The Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples explores the diverse cultures of South Pacific islands, from small islands and nations to the continent of Australia. Artifacts on display include elaborately painted and adorned dance masks from northern New Ireland, part of Papua New Guinea, and intricately detailed shadow puppets from Java, an island of Indonesia. Javanese puppet theater, which originated in the 11th century, has been used for hundreds of years to communicate information about religious tenets, moral codes, history, and myths.

Hall Highlights

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Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Moai Cast

Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is famous for its rows of moai, basalt figures of deified ancestors that were carved in quarries, then moved to a platform on the water's edge.

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Margaret Mead

Anthropologist, explorer, writer, and teacher Margaret Mead taught Americans the value of looking at other cultures to understand the complexity of the human experience. She worked in the Museum's Division of Anthropology from 1926 until her death in 1978.

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Māori Chief’s Pātaka

A particularly striking example of whale imagery can be found in the elaborately carved whales trimming the front gable of this Māori chief’s pātaka, or elevated storage house used for the safekeeping of food and cultural treasures. 

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Māori Weapons Case

Among the treasures stored in a Māori chief’s pātaka, or storage house, might be patu, or clubs such as this one. In this display, the fiddle-shaped patu and a white teardrop-shaped one are made of whalebone. Clubs were also carved from wood, stone, and even jade. 

Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

Open daily from 10 am - 5:45 pm
except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
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