Anthropologist and longtime Museum curator Margaret Mead provided the foundation for the hall that bears her name through her groundbreaking expeditions to Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali.
An anthropologist, teacher, and author of best-selling books, Mead worked in the Museum’s Division of Anthropology from 1926 until her death in 1978. Starting with her book Coming of Age in Samoa, her work brought anthropology into the public consciousness, teaching generations of Americans about the value of looking carefully and openly at other cultures.
The Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples explores the diverse cultures of South Pacific islands, from small islands and nations to the continent of Australia. Artifacts on display include elaborately painted and adorned dance masks from northern New Ireland, part of Papua New Guinea, and intricately detailed shadow puppets from Java, an island of Indonesia. Javanese puppet theater, which originated in the 11th century, has been used for hundreds of years to communicate information about religious tenets, moral codes, history, and myths.