Charles Frederick Newcombe

A medical doctor and professional collector

Dr. Charles Newcombe, a medical doctor and professional collector, presented the Liverpool Museum with a collection of Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth objects in 1901. Newcombe had a Liverpool connection, as he worked for a time at Rainhill, near Liverpool before moving to Victoria, British Columbia in 1889.

Newcombe's knowledge of, and interest in, the cultures of the Northwest Coast meant he was considered an important collector at a time when major American and European museums were competing to build their Northwest Coast collections.

In 1891 and 1895 Newcombe travelled on expeditions to the Kwakiutl community at Alert Bay and Queen Charlotte Islands where he began acquiring anthropological artefacts for his personal collection.
Over the years he was commissioned by museums in Europe and North America to collect natural history and ethnographic items from the coastal communities in British Columbia. On these trips he was accompanied by Haida chief Elijah Ninstints who described the geography and the history of the area whilst Newcombe collected specimens. He collected totem poles, ceremonial regalia and more utilitarian items. Motivated by the anthropological interest at the time in osteology, he also collected skeletal material.

Today, we must consider Newcombe’s collecting within the context of its time. In the late 19th century there was enormous competition to collect and ‘preserve’ artefacts in order to protect them from what was then described as the demise of the Northwest Coast culture through disease. This is a classical example of ‘salvage ethnography’, the misguided belief of European collectors that there was a need to preserve a culture before it disappeared. This period of intense collecting reached new lows with the desecration of First Nation graves to strip them of remains and burial goods.

  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Tyne and Wear: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Americas: Northern America: Canada: British Columbia
  • Cause of death

1 item(s) from 'Blitzed: The museum Liverpool nearly lost' related to Charles Frederick Newcombe

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