Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Downing Street


Museum website



01223 333 516


01223 333 517

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Your first sight in the Maudslay gallery
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Founded in 1884, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology holds world-class collections of art and artefacts from all over the world, representing cultures and histories over millennia.

In 1997 the Museum's entire collection was recognised as a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 4:30pm

Closed: Bank Holidays
1 week Christmas & Easter

Admission charges


The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

This museum was founded in 1884 on the basis of two important collections: the Cambridge Antiquarian Society collection relating to British archaeology; and anthropological artefacts from the South Seas acquired by, among others, the museum's first curator, Baron Anatole von Hügel. The collections now comprise approximately half a million archaeological items and over 150,000 ethnographic objects. Most have been acquired through Cambridge-based research and are exceptionally well documented.

The strengths of the archaeological collections include their worldwide scope and the extensive Palaeolithic and Mesolithic material. Important anthropological collections include artefacts from Cook's first voyage to the Pacific in 1769 and artefacts and photographs from the 1898 Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Strait.

Items from this collection

Collection details

World Cultures, Costume and Textiles, Archaeology

Key artists and exhibits

  • In addition to the permanent displays the following special exhibitions are currently on view:
  • Paired Brothers: concealment and revelation (Iatmul ritual art from the Sepik, Papua New Guinea)
  • Coveney: Island Identity in the Fens
  • ROCK-ART image people land knowledge
  • Vanuatu Stael: Kastom & Creativity
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji

Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji

  • 7 June 2013 — 19 April 2014 *on now

This is the first ever exhibition dedicated to Fijian Art outside Fiji. It draws on MAA’s exceptional collection of Fijian artefacts, photographs and archives, a collection closely linked to the early colonial history of Fiji and the foundation of the Museum.

Baron Anatole von Hügel, MAA’s first curator, travelled within Fiji between 1874 and 1877, a period coinciding with Fiji’s entry into the British Empire. Along with Sir Arthur Gordon (First Governor of Fiji) and Alfred Percival Maudslay (Sir Arthur’s private secretary), von Hügel assembled an impressive Fijian collection, including outstanding objects presented by Fijian and Tongan chiefs. This material formed the founding ethnographic collection of the Museum when it opened in 1884. The opening of this exhibition in June 2013 marks the centenary of the Museum moving to its current building on Downing Street.

Chiefs & Governors introduces important aspects of Fijian art and culture and highlights key moments of Fijian pre-colonial and colonial history. Combining historical and contemporary objects and installations, Chiefs and Governors emphasises the dynamism and creativity of Fiji.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue: Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji by Anita Herle & Lucie Carreau.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Barkcloth from Papua New Guinea

Tapa: Barkcloth paintings from the Pacific

  • 25 March — 19 April 2014 *on now

This exhibition draws upon the Museum’s world-class collection of barkcloth, dating from the eighteenth century to the present day. Exceptional barkcloths, rarely displayed, will be featured including two works by women of the Omie community of Papua New Guinea, acquired in 2012 with the support of the Art Fund and other donors.

For millenia, Pacific Islanders have made cloth from the bark of trees. Often taking on ceremonial significance, its decoration is extraordinary, with patterns that are enjoyed for their abstraction as much as their symbolism. Today, the practice of barkcloth- making remains a vital aspect of many Pacific Island communities.
Barkcloth is made by soaking and beating the inner bark of specific trees, most commonly the Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). In some places it takes the form of huge sheets featuring optically dynamic patterns, while elsewhere barkcloth features plants and animal life, sacred creatures and mythic narratives. Some cloths were wealth objects, spectacular fabrics many metres in size, which were presented by one clan to another on great ceremonial occasions. Cloth was often understood as a kind of skin, a powerful wrapping for the body which revealed its inner state and identity. Primarily created by women using inherited clan designs, the manufacture of barkcloth formed a major vehicle for both creative expression and social cohesion, maintaining and communicating the artists’ deep connection to their ancestors and country.

The Museum was delighted to loan some of its most outstanding examples to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham for an exhibition in 2013, some of these works will now be displayed as part of this exhibition.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Museums at Night

Manos Creadoras (Creative Hands): Chilean arts and crafts

  • 16 May 2014 5-9pm

Join us for this special evening opening, when the Museum is delighted to welcome three Chilean artists to demonstrate their contemporary and indigenous artwork. Come and meet the artists travelling to the UK for the first time:
Marta Morrison, who makes jewellery from silver along with wheat straw and wild oats; Cecilia Challapa, a weaver who uses alpaca wool from the Andes; and Nelly Zurita a creator of wearable art from dyed horsehair.

In association with Cambridge business Andes Crafts and the Chilean Embassy in London, relax with a glass of wine and explore the Museum’s collections from South America.

Suitable for

  • 18+


Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC)

The Cambridge branch of the Young Archaeologist's Club is hosted by the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Meetings in Cambridge are held monthly and past activities have included fieldwalking, site visits, and an archaeological pottery session.

How to obtain

Call the museum front desk on 01223 333516 for more details or to join.