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Village scene with missionaries and locals of the Shortland Islands

Date: 1899
Dimensions:
Overall: 202 x 253 x 1 mm, 42 g
Medium: Albumen print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00046964

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    Description
    This photograph of a village scene with missionaries and locals of the Shortland Islands (in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands) was taken by Reverend George Brown, an active missionary in Melanesia and Polynesia throughout the latter part of the 19th century. It shows European men and women with locals, some of which are wearing traditional cloth pareu.

    It is one of eight photographs in the museum's collection (00046958 - 00046965) taken by Reverend Brown during his fourth voyage to New Guinea in June-July 1899 on board the steamer MORESBY.
    SignificancePhotographic material associated with 19th century missionary activity in the Pacific is scarce, and these photographs offer an insight into the activities of a major figure, Reverend Dr George Brown. Reverend Brown's photographs are significant as pictorial records of the missions and the history of Methodism, as well as documenting the ethnographic diversity of the Pacific region.
    HistoryRev George Brown (1835-1917), Methodist missionary, was born in December 1835 at Durham in England, the son of George Brown, barrister and Unitarian preacher, and Elizabeth Dixon, sister of the wife of Rev Thomas Buddle, missionary in New Zealand. George Brown (Jnr) migrated to New Zealand in March 1855, attending classes held by Bishop Selwyn and Rev J C Patteson on the voyage. While living with his uncle, the Rev Thomas Buddle at Onehunga, Brown was influenced by several Methodist preachers and joined the Methodist Society. He became a local preacher and was designated a missionary for Samoa in 1860. On 2 August 1860 he married Sarah Lydia, second daughter of Rev James Wallis, missionary at Whaingaroa Harbour.

    Brown was ordained in Sydney on 19 September 1860 and soon afterward sailed to the Pacific Islands. While stationed at Savai'i (Samoa), Brown urged the opening of a mission in New Britain. In 1874-75 he travelled in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and New Zealand canvassing support. He then visited Fiji and Samoa looking for volunteer missionaries before establishing a missionary station at Port Hunter, Duke of York Island.

    In October 1876 Brown arrived in Sydney and continued his work in the colonies. A portable mission house was built in Sydney and transported to New Britain in 1877 where George and Sarah established a mission. When a Fijian missionary and three teachers were murdered in April 1878 Brown was involved in a punitive expedition which caused a furore in the Australasian press (the Blanche Bay affair) but rendered the region safe for later missionaries and traders. Seriously ill, Brown withdrew to Sydney in May 1879. Because of travel hazards he did not return to New Britain until March 1880. His wife had survived a serious illness but two of his children had died. When the Browns left the archipelago in January 1881 more than 25 missionary stations had been established there.

    Sydney now became Brown's headquarters where he engaged in linguistic work for the mission. He had accrued additional celebrity through descriptions of his collections in the PROCEEDINGS OF THE ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON in 1877-81, and was popular for deputation work. In 1881-91 he did much to influence Australian public opinion about the Pacific Islands through his letters to the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD under various pseudonyms, the most notable series being the CARPE DIEM letters in 1883-85 which criticised British inaction and warned of German aggression.

    In 1886 he visited England where he was lionized in church and scientific circles and acted as a Commissioner for New South Wales at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London. He returned to Sydney via America in March 1887. In the interim he had been appointed General Secretary of Overseas Missions, an office which he held until his retirement in April 1908. His first major assignment was to act in 1888-91 as Special Commissioner to Tonga, where colonial mission policies had provoked the secession of the 'Free Church' in 1885 under the Tongan King and the Rev Shirley Baker.

    He attended the meeting at Port Moresby on 17 June 1890 under the auspices of Sir William MacGregor when the major Protestant missions came to a mutual understanding on spheres of influence in Papua, and in 1891 he established the Methodist mission at Dobu. After visiting the Solomon Islands in 1901, he conducted the first mission party to Roviana in May 1902. He also made many visits to Methodist missions in the western Pacific and it was during these visits that Brown produced an extensive photographic record of Pacific peoples from Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and his old home of Samoa. Brown was well aware of the many possibilities for his photographs: as records of the missions, as pictorial records in the history of Methodism, as documents of ethnographic diversity and for anthropological study and research.

    In 1892 Brown was awarded an honorary D.D. by McGill University. He wrote many mission pamphlets, books and reports and was a regular contributor to the AUSTRALASIAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, President of the Methodist General Conference, Vice-President of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Australian Native Races Protection Society.

    He published many anthropological and sociological papers including COMMUNICATIONS RESPECTING THE WESLEYAN NEW MISSIONS TO NEW BRITAIN... (1875); A JOURNEY ALONG THE COASTS OF NEW IRELAND AND NEIGHBOURING ISLANDS (1881); DICTIONARY AND GRAMMAR OF THE DUKE OF YORK ISLAND LANGUAGE (1882); PAPUANS AND POLYNESIANS (1887); THE LIFE HISTORY OF A SAVAGE (1899); WINTER EXCURSIONS (1898); NOTES OF A RECENT JOURNEY TO NEW GUINEA AND NEW BRITAIN (1899); SOME NEW BRITAIN CUSTOMS (1901); A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF METHODIST MISSIONS IN AUSTRALASIA, POLYNESIA AND MELANESIA (1904); THE FUTURE OF THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES (1911); A PERSONAL STATEMENT (1900s); THE CONCEPTIONAL THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF TOTEMISM (1912) ; THE NECESSITY FOR A UNIFORM SYSTEM OF SPELLING AUSTRALIAN PROPER NAMES (1912).

    Rev Brown visited London in 1908 where he published GEORGE BROWN, D.D. PIONEER-MISSIONARY AND EXPLORER: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY and in the following year MELANESIANS AND POLYNESIANS: THEIR LIFE-HISTORIES DESCRIBED AND COMPAIRED.

    Rev Brown died in 1917 and was buried in the Methodist section of the Gore Hill Cemetery near Sydney. His extensive collection of South Sea artefacts was bought by the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle in England, over thirty volumes of his papers are in the Mitchell Library, Sydney and The Australian Museum, Sydney holds a large collection of Brown's glass plate negatives which were acquired from Tyrell's Bookshop during the 1930s. Brown's images were published as photographic plates in many of his own works and some of these photographs have appeared as plates in both his autobiography GEORGE BROWN: PIONEER-MISSIONARY AND EXPLORER (1908) and in MELANESIANS AND POLYNESIANS (1910).

    An adventurous and practical man, Rev Brown earned the respect and friendship of colonial administrators such as Sir Arthur Gordon (First Governor of Fiji, Governor of New Zealand and later Governor of Ceylon), Sir John Bates Thurston (High Commissioner to the Western Pacific; Colonial Secretary of Fiji), and C M Woodford (Commissioner of the Solomon Islands Protectorate) and the writer R L Stevenson.

    In his autobiography (1908) he gives a short account of his fourth voyage to New Guinea in June - July 1899 on board the steamer MORESBY. The MORESBY left Sydney on 18 June 1899 bound for Thursday Island, Port Moresby, Dobu Island, Normanby Island, Kiriwina, New Britain and the Solomons (New Georgia and the Shortland Group). The majority of the passengers on the MORESBY were connected with missionary work, and included Roman Catholics from Samoa and Fiji, the Lutheran Rev Pastor Flierl, members of the London Missionary Society, the Anglican Mission in New Guinea and the Methodist Church, of whom Brown was the principal representative.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Village scene with missionaries and locals of the Shortland Islands

    Assigned title: Photograph of a village scene with missionaries and Fijians, Shortland Group, 1899

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