With rich collections, the People of the World Gallery spans peoples and cultures from around the globe.

Roman coins, Japanese swords, Egyptian pots, African basketry and Victorian dresses – diverse items from all over the globe and from many different eras convey beauty, age, artistry and mystery in the People of the World Gallery.

While showcasing these treasures, the gallery explores why people value the things they collect, and offers examples of how and why rare and valuable artefacts from other cultures arrived in Otago.

The displays consider the kind of information that can be learned from a huge variety of different objects. This includes manufacture, ownership, design, history and social messages.

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Archaeological items that relate to beliefs about the afterlife in the Egypt of the Pharaohs include an Egyptian mummy, gifted to the Otago Museum by Bendix Hallenstein in 1894.

Through Carbon-14 dating, an x-ray, a CT scan and facial modelling, it is known that the mummy is a female of around middle age, who probably lived around 300BC.

Other material from the ancient world includes a significant collection of Greek and Roman coins, dating back to 700BC. Not only providing significant insights into history, coins also become an important record of trade and travel.

An Etruscan two-handled jar from the 5th century BC and an Egyptian pot decorated with birds and funerary boats are among the oldest items on display. 

The decorative arts objects in the gallery offer a cross-section of the Museum’s extensive ceramics collection. These show how design, construction, embellishment or use might stem from historical habits, social conventions or contact with other traditions.

Clothing, from a burka to a wedding kimono, illustrates both the cultural similarities and the differences that make each culture unique.

In different centuries and diverse environments, people have used objects to survive, to enrich their world and to illustrate their beliefs about the spiritual and supernatural. The study of these objects can help us learn about other people – and ourselves.

Throughout the years, many of these rare and wonderful objects have been gifted to the Otago Museum by benefactors who, as a result of their generosity, have helped to enrich this gallery.