Powell Cotton Museum

Uncovering Ethnography in Kent and Sussex

The Powell Cotton Museum was built by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton in 1896, to house his extensive collection of natural history and ethnography. Assisted by his family, he collected over 16,000 objects from the people he met during his world expeditions, this material illustrated people’s lives and cultures.

The review project uncovered many objects from southern Angola, collected in 1936 and 1937 by Powell-Cotton’s daughters, Diana and Antoinette. They collected 6000 objects and photographs, providing a unique and detailed snapshot of the life of the peoples of southern Angola.

Going against official advice, Diana and Antoinette’s visionary and pioneering work sought to record traditions and cultures, which were coming under increasing threat from colonialism. Through the objects they collected and their film footage, they helped create one of the most important archives of southern Angolan life anywhere in Europe.

The new Angolan Gallery created as part of this project, and the objects in this web display, showcase material seen for the first time since they were brought to the UK. The objects uncovered include a wide variety of dolls and figures showing hairdressing styles and forms of body adornment.

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