At the time the Major was collecting, traditions around the world were being lost, often due to colonialism and the influence of missionaries. Preserving these traditions was important to the Powell-Cottons and the museum holds thousands of cultural objects from around the world.
Many of these objects are on display and range from carved and painted heads from French Congo, to Angolan fertility dolls and Japanese cutting weapons.
This material comes alive with photographs taken in the field by the Major and his family showing how the objects were used and treated. Film footage taken in Angola in the 1930s is screened in Gallery 6 and shows scenes of daily life.
The ethnographic collection has been the subject of fantastic research projects in the past, and is always available for study.