The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the world’s oceans, covering about one third of the Earth. The vast expanse of water is scattered with more than 20,000 islands.

These range from continental islands like New Guinea, to tiny atolls found in places such as the Tuamotu group, to the mountainous and volcanic high islands like Hawai’i. Geographically, the Pacific is divided into three main regions: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The cultures within these regions are as diverse as the landscapes themselves.

Archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests New Guinea was colonized by people coming east from Indonesia around 45,000 years ago. The Solomon Islands were populated 20-25,000 years ago but it was from around 3,000 years ago that considerable migration further east occurred. Europeans began voyaging through the Pacific in the 16th century. It was with the voyages of Captain James Cook in the late 18th century that Europeans began fully exploring the islands.

Use the links below to explore the collections at the four project partner museums by Pacific location. You can also find an introduction to material culture from a selection of countries in the Pacific.

Austral Islands

Caroline Islands

Cook Islands

Easter Island

Fiji

Hawaiian Islands

Kiribati

Marquesas Islands

Marshall Islands

Micronesia

New Caledonia

New Zealand

Niue

Papua New Guinea

Pitcairn

Samoa

Society Islands

Solomon Islands

Tokelau

Tonga

Torres Strait Islands

Tuamotu and Gambier Islands

Tuvalu

Vanuatu

West Papua

Appendices

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