Most of the photographs date from George Brown’s visits as General Secretary of Missions to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea from 1888 to 1905, with the exception of an earlier set of New Britain images taken between 1876 and 1880.

The images include portraits, landscapes, mission life, indigenous activities and scenes, and are some of the earliest photos taken in these areas of the Pacific.

Reverend George Brown

George Brown (1835-1917) was born in Durham, England and migrated to New Zealand in 1855 where he joined the Methodist Society and married Sarah Lydia Wallis. In 1860 he was ordained in Sydney and for the next 14 years worked for the Methodist Mission in Samoa. There he was involved in supervising fellow missionaries and teachers, and in 1874-5 he lobbied for new missions to be set up in New Britain and New Ireland.

With teachers from Fiji and Samoa, he and his family settled in Duke of York Islands, New Britain. In the following years Brown helped to establish 29 mission stations and churches in New Britain and New Ireland.

Brown returned to Sydney in 1881 and in 1888 he was appointed General Secretary of the Australian Methodist Mission, an office he held until 1908. His duties included seeking out new locations for missions and visiting the established Methodist groups across the Pacific. In this capacity he set up a Methodist Mission on Dobu Island, British New Guinea in 1891, and he also conducted the first mission party to Roviana, Solomon Islands in May 1902.

Brown actively participated in scientific and religious discourse throughout his life, and after retiring in 1908 he published his autobiography and Melanesians and Polynesians in 1910. He also distributed his photographs to missionary colleagues, academics and anthropologists across Europe.

For a detailed listing of the collection, contact Archives.

Artefacts donated to the Australian Museum by George Brown on several occasions are held in our Cultural Collections.

Further Reading:

George Brown, George Brown D.D. Pioneer Missionary and Exploreer: an autobiography London,1908

Helen Gardner and Jude Philp, "Photography and Christian Mission, George Brown's Images of the New Britain Mission 1875-80" in Journal of Pacific History, Vol.41, No.2, September 2006.

Helen Bethea Gardner, Gathering for God: George Brown in Oceania, Otago University Press, 2006.

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