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Gallery 4

Gallery 4

Gallery 4 is currently under development. We hope that the new displays will be completed by spring 2015.

Though now a gallery, this room was originally built as a lecture theatre, where the many films made by Percy Powell-Cotton and his children could be shown. The family made over thirty films during their travels and filmed many subjects, including the wildlife, ceremonies they witnessed in various African communities, objects being made and even the more mundane activities of packing up supplies for their trips abroad.

Today Gallery 4 is a place to explore the work of Diana and Antoinette Powell-Cotton. Two of Percy Powell-Cotton’s daughters, the sisters had their father’s passion for travel, exploration and learning, but took it in new directions. Diana was a keen artist and explorer, travelling first with her father to Sudan and then on her own to Italian Somaliland (now Somalia). Antoinette had a passionate interest in anthropology, which led her to volunteer at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, where she learnt many of the key skills needed to correctly collect, record and interpret objects from other cultures. Their skills were combined in 1936 and 1937 when they undertook two expeditions to Angola, creating a collection of nearly 3000 objects; one of the largest collections of Angolan material culture in Europe.

The right hand side of the gallery displays material from the sisters’ expeditions to Angola, highlighting key objects and rites-of-passage in the lives of the communities they encountered on their travels.

The left hand side of the gallery focuses on the broad range of skills and interests the sisters’ developed throughout their lifetime. Here you can see examples of the detailed research that was compiled to accompany the objects they collected, including object indexes, drawings, and photographs. The displays also highlight the other activities the sisters’ undertook. Diana went on to have a long career as a doctor, both in England and in Africa. Antoinette assisted in the running of the museum and developed a passion for local archaeology. Her work at Minnis Bay will form part of the new displays, on show from spring 2015.

Photographs: Nikhilesh Havel

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