The Museum's Ethnography display consists of nearly 800 objects from all corners of the globe, including Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia. However, the display is only a fraction of the Museum's total collection, which dates back to the original Kelvingrove Museum in the 1870s.


Much of the Oceania collection was acquired from anthropologists, missionaries and teachers working in the Pacific Islands during the late nineteenth century. One such teacher was Robert Bruce, who lived on the Torres Straits Islands between Australia and New Guinea.

Bruce was a fomer yacht-builder from Glasgow, and in 1889 he donated an important collection of 150 objects to the original Kelvingrove Museum. The Bruce collection is of great significance, in that it was acquired before westerners began to influence the local cultures of New Guinea and the Torres Straits Islands.

Head-Dress, New Guinea

Head-Dress, New Guinea

Made from Bird of Paradise feathers.


Thunderbird Totem Pole

Vancouver Island, Canada 1992.




Thunderbird Totem Pole

North American Indian cultures figure prominently in the Ethnography collection. Four distinct groups are represented: the Eastern Woodland Indians; the Plains buffalo hunters and warriors; the village-dwelling Pueblo of the Southwest; and the Canadian Northwest Coast Indians. The collection also includes objects from the Inuit and Aleut Eskimo cultures.

In 1901 the Museum purchased an important collection of 55 Eskimo and North-West Coast Indian objects from Mrs. E.M. Wilkie of Edinburgh. Mrs. Wilkie acqiured her collection on a visit to Alaska, where her brother-in-law was a bishop.


The African collection covers many cultures: the Bushmen hunter-gatherers of the South; the pastoral nomads of the East; the agricultural people of the Congo in Central Africa; and the complex civilisations of West Africa.

The collection includes objects acquired by the renowned explorer, missionary and naturalist David Livingstone (1813-1873) which were bequeathed to the original Kelvingrove Museum in the 1870s.

Another important contribution to the collection was made by Joseph Moloney. He was a medical officer on a mining expedition to the southeast Congo in 1891, and he donated 27 objects to the Museum in 1907.


The Asian collection reflects the many diverse religions and philosophies of the continent. Major religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are represented, as are many small local religions.

The distinction between Chinese religion and philosophy is not always clear, and the collection reflects this, with objects representing Confucianism and Taoism.

In 1929 the Museum received an important donation of over 100 objects from James Boyd of Lenzie. His collection, acquired on various trips to Asia, consists of figures of buddhas and deities.

South Asian Metalware

South Asian Metalware


Click on the images to see enlarged versions:

Model of Japanese samurai warrior
Shaman mask
Kifwebe mask, Zaire