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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

National Maritime Museum purchases Omai relics

Media release
18 November 2009

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Arts Minister Peter Garrett today announced funding of $100,000 from the Australian Government's National Cultural Heritage Account for the Australian National Maritime Museum to acquire the Omai relics from the Tobias Furneaux collection.

“The relics comprise three rare clubs collected during Captain Cook's second exploration of the Pacific between from 1772–1775,” Mr Garrett said.

“There are two Tongan clubs, collected in Tongatapu, Tonga in 1773 and a Maori whalebone patu (club) collected from Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand in 1774.

“The Government is very pleased to help the Museum purchase these important historic artefacts through the National Cultural Heritage Account.

“The Omai relics represent an important era in European exploration in the Pacific. They are a symbol of the trade between explorers and Pacific indigenous peoples during the 18th century.

“The history of ownership, rarity and beauty of these relics makes them an extremely valuable and important part of our heritage.

The relics were transported to England on HMS Adventure, captained by Tobias Furneaux. Omai, the first Polynesian to visit England in the 1700s, also travelled on HMS Adventure, and the relics have since come to be known as the 'Omai Relics'.

“The unique ethnographic story of these relics will now be shared with Australians through the Australian National Maritime Museum,” Mr Garrett said.

“The Omai relics will make a significant contribution to the Museum's Exploration and European Settlement collection, a key focus of the Museum.”

The Australian Government's National Cultural Heritage Account has assisted cultural organisations, ranging from regional historical societies to state-based and national collecting institutions, buy more than 30 nationally significant objects or collections since its inception in 1999.

Commonwealth of Australia