Skills and techniques (world gallery - additional information)

Skills and Techniques

Many of the objects selected for display in the World Gallery have been made by hand.

They reflect the considerable and varied skills and techniques of men, women and children over the years to be able to create things that are beautiful and/or utilitarian, from the woven baskets of Poland, to the beaten barkcloth of the Fijians.

The type of materials that are locally available or traded are instrumental in determining what is produced. In the extreme North and South Poles, for example, there is no known practice of basketry because there are no relevant natural resources.

The Waiwai collect materials from their forests to make beautiful aprons, hair ornaments or lip plugs with bright feathers, to create complex designs on ritual baskets, or ingenious basket-work cylinders that are used for processing cassava.

Some practices do not require tools, such as weaving baskets, or else minimal tools, like a needle and thread to sew glass beads, used by the Plains people to decorate tobacco pipes and clothing with elaborate and complex patterns. Other materials require tools, such as looms for weaving textiles, chisels or machetes for carving wood, fires and anvils for blacksmiths working to manipulate metal, and a torch or lamp used to melt and twist glass using in the Venetian style or a different technique of glasswork from the 14th century onwards.

The skills and techniques that are learnt are generally acquired through observation, as a young child or apprentice watches and observes their surrounding environment. As the visitor walks around the World Gallery, it is worth taking the time to think about the materials used in each object and consider the skills of those who made them.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: