Maidstone’s New World Explorer and Collector of Ethnography 30 th November 1816 – 24 th February 1873. Between 1849 and 1867 Brenchley travelled from Maidstone around the world collecting art, ethnography and natural history.
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Explorer and Collector of Ethnography
– 24thFebruary 1873
Travel was very different in the 19th Century in comparison to today. To travel around the world it took a longer amount of time. Brenchley would travel on ships across ocean and seas.
A photograph of H.M.S Curaçoa at Sydney Harbour. Brenchley travelled to the Western Pacific on the ship in 1865.
Image courtesy of Maidstone Museum.
He travelled in canoes and small boats along rivers and lakes. He walked or travelled on mule across land, hiked up mountains and sled across icy conditions. It is remarkable how Brenchley managed to transport home so many items of ethnography in such pristine condition.
Brenchley travelled to New York State in 1849 where he lived a forest life among a Native American Tribe likely to have been the Wynadot (Huron). Brenchley went on to explore the rest of the United States, his journey took him along the Missouri River and over the Rocky Mountains to reach the Northwest Coast. He spent four years on the Hawaiian Islands where he met his travel partner Jules Remy, and then together they explored California, New Mexico and entered Indian Territory travelling to the Great Salt Lake.
Snow Boots from the Inuit Tribe
Both items of footwearpictured were used during winter snow conditions. The material and the style indicates that each pair were used by different tribes in different areas of North America and Canada.
Snowshoes from the Cree or Ojibwe Tribe.
Why did Brenchley collect objects?
Read the two extracts taken from the Preface in Jottings during the Cruise of H.M.S. Curaçoa among the South-Sea Islands in 1865 (1873: xvi).
“Though [Brenchley] left a large amount of notes made during his journeys, he was more interested in collecting material objects, illustrative and commemorative of his varied travels, than devoting himself to literary descriptions of them.”
“Thus, though travelling for his own instruction and amusement, he spared neither cost nor trouble in procuring what he thought would contribute to the instruction and gratification of others.”
Discuss: Why do you think the collection of souvenirs was more important to Brenchley than origin and meaning of each tribal object?
The Brenchley Collection features a large number of objects acquired from the Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States. No written documentation is available therefore it is difficult to locate the exact provenance (origin) of many objects. Where the object originates from and which tribe made it can only be guessed. To make identification even more difficult many of the tribes from the Northwest Coast, such as the Tsimshian, Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw, have a similar artistic styles.
A Map of Northwest Coast Tribes
Explorers collected objects from around the world and displayed them in Cabinets of Curiosities symbolising various visited places. Many items collected by Brenchley were made by Native American tribes specifically for tourists. For example, the Haida from the Northwest Coast carved statues and pipes from Argillite, a soft black rock. These objects were hugely popular and some depicted authentic tribal designs of supernatural beings. Most were carved to show European or Euro-American scenes requested by visitors themselves. This art became known as Souvenir Art.
How did Julius Brenchley acquire so many objects for his collection?
What do these words mean in relation to the Brenchley Collection?
CABINET OF CURIOSITY