Explore Art \\ Collection
Currently not on view
Our Oceanic holdings reveal connections between the porous boundaries of art, religion, and life.
Oceania encompasses thousands of islands and extends across the southern expanse of the Pacific, the world’s largest ocean. With acquisitions dating to the museum’s origins in 1799, PEM’s outstanding Oceanic collection includes objects spanning the 18th century to the present from more than 36 Pacific island groups in Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Several hundred well-documented pieces distinguish these holdings, including works from Aotearoa (New Zealand), the Austral Islands, the Caroline Islands, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawai‘i, the Marquesas Islands, the island of Niue, Papua New Guinea, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Samoa, the Society Islands (including Tahiti), the Kingdom of Tonga, and Vanuatu (New Hebrides).
Oceanic artists have expressed their understanding of the world through objects drawn from the natural environment. Through ritual objects and regalia, Pacific people communicate with gods and ancestors, and affirm their divine lineage. Elaborate designs and graceful forms reveal connections between the porous boundaries of art, religion, and life. Many of these works are imbued with ha, the breath and pulse of life, and mana, supernatural or divine power.
Explore some highlights from the collection