Description & Technical information

Siwai, Tonu (Villages ?) South Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands, Melanesia. Conus shell. 4 cm. 19/20th century. Labels attached are Beasley collection: “S. Bougainvile, Siwai, Tonus, 3806A, 11-6-35, Kesi, coll. by Rev. H. Voyce”; and FORTESS Collection, 1896.

As one can see on the Beasley inventory page entry there were two items in this lot 3806 : A & B. The present object here is lot A of 3806 whilst lot B is indicated as being in the Royal Scottish Museum under the number (possibly 1952. 133 ?). However, as the inventory numbers for Beasley’s acquisitions are specifically related to years; the list of the Beasley numbering sequence shows that N° 3806 was inventoried in 1935. There is thus a minor discrepancy here which might be explained by the probability that Beasley and Voyce were trading together in 1935 already and perhaps in correspondence even before that…

Date:  19/20th century
Period:  1850-1900, 20th century, 19th century
Origin:  Solomon Islands
Dimensions: 4 cm (1⁵/₈ inches)
Provenance: Reverend ARTHUR HENRY VOYCE (1899-1984), Missionary, Philatelist, Conchologist, Hymenopterist, Horticulturist & Collector of Artifacts. Methodist Mission, Kihili, Buin, Bougainville, Terr. of Papua & New Guinea’.

Voyce (known as Harry) was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1899. The family moved to Manawatu, New Zealand in 1907. He was a student at Trinity Methodist Theological College ("Dunholme") from 1923 to 1925 and in 1926 he married Beryl Haliday. He became a Methodist Missionary in Siwai, South Bougainville from 1926 to 1936 and then in Buin, South Bougainville from 1937 to 1952. He acted as Chaplain with the NZ Army in Papua New Guinea during WWII in 1943-44. In 1953-1957, he was once again in Kihili, Buin Circuit, Bougainville and in 1958 he retired to Takapuna, NZ., He died on the 28th December 1984 at the age of 86.

Harry's lesser known pursuits whilst a missionary in Papua New Guinea included an interest in shells (conchologist); he was also interested in insects, particularly wasps (hymenopterist); and, he was an avid collector of Bougainville artifacts prior to WWII. His collection is now housed in the Auckland War Memorial Museum (stone adzes numbering about 6,000 specimens), plus a collection of large numbers of arrows and spears which are housed in the Otago University Museum. Harry published a book on these collections, which were the source materials for the PNG 1976 National Heritage Bougainville Artifacts stamps. He subsequently published many philatelic publications in New Zealand.
Source :

Voyce sold a large collection of Bougainville and Solomons artefacts to Harry Beasley in 1936, 1937 and 1938, catalogued as Beasley 3640 to 3690; 3691 to 3707; 3708 to 3714; 3715 to 3719; 3720 to 3722; 3723 to 3739; 3780 to 3793; 3794 to 3809; 3812; 3872 to 3894; 4069 to 4168; 4339 to 4365; 4571 to 4597; 4662 to 4703.

The present object is catalogued as acquired in 1935 from Voyce so there probably would have been trading going on between Voyce and Beasley prior to 1936.

Harry G. Beasley, founder of the Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, Chislehurst, Kent, made his first acquisition of a lime-spatula at the age of 11 and continued collecting and studying ethnographical art until his death in 1939. Over the years he built up a private collection that was probably the finest in Britain. He achieved this by exchange with Institutions and other collectors throughout the World and by purchase mainly from Missionary Societies, soldiers and Auction Houses. Although much travelled, he never visited the countries whose primitive art so fascinated him. His collection included such famous pieces as the early 19th century Hawaiian feather Cloaks (now Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and British Museum, London) ; the Benin armorial Cup and American Totem Pole (now British Museum) ; Captain Cook's feather Cape (now Edinburgh Museum). During his lifetime H. G. Beasley was in correspondence with museums and collectors throughout the World, the results of which can be seen in his published articles and his standard work on South Seas Fish Hooks published in 1928. Apart from his main interests in the South Seas and North-West Coast of America he was a pioneer collector of Tibetan and Himalayan Art. His African interests were confined principally to Benin. After his death in 1939 many items were presented to four National British Museums. Other pieces were sold by his widow and after her death in 1974 by their daughters.

Most of his pieces are labelled and bear Mr Beasley's register number. These numbers can be related to their acquisition date as follows:
1 to 91 are prior to 1905; 92 to 444 1905 - 1909; 445 to 1107 1910 - 1919; 1108 to 1529 1920 - 1924; 2277 to 2955 1925 - 1931; 2956 to 3362 1932 - 1933; 3363 to 3990 1934 - 1935; 3991 to 4113 1936 - 1939; and 1530 to 2276 1925 - 1928.
The above numbers relate only to American and Oceanic Art.

Leo and Lillian Fortess were renowned collectors from Kanehoe Bay in Hawaii. They arrived in Hawaii in 1941 on the 76-foot schooner Chance, with two other couples sailing from New York to Hawaii via the Panama Canal. They began collecting Polynesian artifacts as the Chance passed through the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti in 1940 through 1941, an interest that they maintained throughout the rest of their lives. Leo Fortess served as one of the few non-academic presidents of the Anthropological Society of Hawaii and was a life member of the Bishop Museum and Honolulu Academy of the Arts.
Categories: Tribal Art