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Title: The uses and limitations of the forensic method in assessing Marmaduke Tunstall's collections and Hawaiian wicker heads
Authors: Jessop, Leslie
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis uses a method termed 'forensic', which parallels the procedure used within courtrooms for assessing evidence. It builds up a picture by assembling evidence and assessing its truth or otherwise; it is an approach that privileges facts rather than theoretical systems. The forensic method is applied to data assembled concerning Marmaduke Tunstall (1743-1790) ofWycliffe, North Yorkshire and his ethnographic and natural history collections. Tunstall was a wealthy amateur scientist and a collector of natural history specimens, antiquities and other artefacts. Part of his collection survives in the Hancock Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne. A biography of Tunstall was compiled using both primary sources and previously published biographies. Further insight into Tunstall's life and interests was provided by a series of letters mainly from him to his half-brother William Constable. All of the surviving material from Marmaduke Tunstall's natural history collection in the Hancock Museum was documented, and the history of the overall corpus of material was analysed to account for the elements now missing from it. The major surviving part of Tunstall's collection is the ethnographic material, and this includes an assemblage of artefacts from the Pacific Islands (mainly, Polynesia) that is of international importance. Several are object types of extreme rarity, and one of the rarest is a wicker head made in Hawaii. Although there is no previous consensus as to what Hawaiian wicker heads represent, it has long been realised that they were items of extremely high socio-religious status in Hawaii prior to the 19th century. A major part of the overall project was to address the question as to what was the function of Hawaiian wicker heads. In order to do this, they were placed in a broad context of Polynesian religious and social practices, using mainly published works on the history, geography and anthropology of Polynesia, and especially Hawaii. The thesis, therefore, comprises two contrasting but complementary parts. The first builds a concise picture of the life and correspondence of Marmaduke Tunstall, of the fate of his collections, and documents all surviving items from his natural history and ethnographic collections. The second part presents an extended discussion centred on Hawaiian wicker heads. The success of the forensic method in addressing the two major elements of the project was assessed. It was found that the portions that relate closely to the experience of the investigator (especially in Part One) were satisfactorily resolved. However, some of the issues concerning the social and religious practices of 18th century Polynesia were not only complex but also involved processes and systems that were far removed from the experience of the investigator: the forensic method was found to be of limited use in resolving theses issues.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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