History of the cylinders

Most of the cylinders recorded in the Torres Strait and British New Guinea in 1898 and British New Guinea in 1904 already had a number and a place name, e.g., New Guinea/NG or Torres Strait/TS, written on them in red ink; the British Library refers to this as the Frazer number. Ward noted that “the red numbers … are those applied by Frazer, possibly several years after the collection returned to the UK. Experience with other cylinders marked by Frazer shows that his numbers normally bear no relation whatever to the order in which the material was recorded, and appear to have been applied in a haphazard way.”1Alan Ward Letter to Moyle 22 March 1985 . Recent research by the True Echoes team indicates that the red-ink labels for all the British New Guinea and Torres Strait cylinders are part of one single numbering sequence. As it is not clear that either Sir James Frazer or his wife Elizabeth, known as Lilly, wrote these labels, and as the place name designation is also important, we refer to them in this document as the red-ink labels, rather than the Frazer number.

Moyle’s work probably helped to identify and separate the different groupings within the Torres Strait and British New Guinea parts of the Frazer collection (Moyle 1983:133). Moyle seems to have used the red-ink labelling in her organisation of the Torres Strait cylinders. It is not clear whether Moyle or Ward assigned the British New Guinea cylinders with their original shelfmark, a four-digit number written in pencil,2The shelfmark is a unique registration number allocated by the Sound Archive; it is field 087 in the SAMI database. but whoever did so mostly followed the numbering sequence laid down by the red-ink labels. For the British New Guinea cylinders, numbering started with the cylinders recorded in 1904. The fact that the red-ink numbers start with the 1904 recordings and then go onto the 1898 recordings suggests that whoever wrote the red-ink labels on these cylinders either did not know about their recording chronology or did not think it important that they reflect this chronology in the numbering system.

Alan Ward at BIRS assigned C series numbers at a collection level in 1980; the Torres Strait collection was assigned C80, and the British New Guinea collection was assigned C62.3Janet Topp Fargion email to Rebekah Hayes, 18 June 2020. The C62 collection was formerly named Seligman New Guinea Cylinders, and it contained all the cylinders recorded in British New Guinea on both the 1898 and 1904 expeditions. A few cylinders were allocated incorrectly and reclassified at later dates.

Research by Vicky Barnecutt, British Library, and Don Niles, IPNGS.

History of Dubbing

Don Niles from the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies found out from Moyle that there were recordings made in British New Guinea in 1898 and 1904, and contacted Durán in September 1982.429 September 1982 – Niles > Durán; 10 June 2020 – email Niles > Barnecutt. Durán informed him that “we have preliminarily identified 87 cylinders as emanating from Papua New Guinea, but we are not sure who recorded them.”513 October 1982, Durán > Niles. She undertook to send Niles a list, and copies of the dubbings when made. Niles wrote to Durán again in March 1983 to ask permission to obtain copies of the 1898 tapes directly from Moyle at AIAS.601 March 1983, Niles > Durán.

All of the original C62 cylinders from British New Guinea were dubbed by Stickells in February 1983.7Dubbing Checklist 1983. In June 1983, Durán sent Niles “reel-to-reel” copies of these dubbings.8Niles, Don. 04 May 1988. Letter to Durán. Durán wrote that “the first 39 cylinders were probably recorded by C. G. Seligmann in New Guinea in 1904, and cylinders 40–67 were probably recorded by Haddon Etc. during their visit to New Guinea in 1898.”916 June 1983, Durán > Moyle, 04 May 1988, Niles > Durán.

All of the cylinders from New Guinea were digitised for the first time by Will Prentice in April 2001, and then these digitised versions were transferred from DAT to WAV files by Kevin Lemonnier in January 2010, according to the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image catalogue (SAMI).


In April 2020, Don Niles suggested to the True Echoes team at the Library that the cylinders collected in 1898 did not belong in the Seligman New Guinea collection (C62), and that the two parts of the C62 collection should be split up. Following discussions with Janet Topp Fargion, Head of Sound & Vision, it was decided that the cylinders collected in British New Guinea in 1898 as part of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait should be reunited with the cylinders collected from the Torres Strait on the same expedition, known as the Torres Strait Cylinders (C80). The C80 collection has been renamed the Alfred Cort Haddon 1898 Expedition (Torres Strait and British New Guinea) Cylinder Collection to take into account both the Torres Strait and British New Guinea provenances. The Seligman New Guinea collection now consists only of the cylinders collected in British New Guinea in 1904, and so has been renamed the “Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to British New Guinea 1904 Cylinder Collection (C62)”.

Archival material related to the Expedition are held at the LSE Library Archives and Special Collections. This includes journals and fieldnotes written by both Seligmann10Seligmann 1/2/2. and Daniels.11Seligmann 3/1/1.

References in the archival information suggest that Daniels was largely responsible for collecting artefacts, with other members of the expedition also collecting.

On their arrival back in England, Seligmann sorted and divided the objects that had been collected, and then made donations to museums on Daniels’s behalf.12https://pittrivers-object.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-cooke-daniels-expedition.html Seligmann donated around 1900 artefacts to the British Museum.13https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG62945 and https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG122362 This included 32 drums, with 18 of these from areas where recordings were made: Tubetube, the Trobriand Islands, Kiwai, Mekeo and Hanuabada, and a number of other instruments, as well as some dance paddles from the Trobriand Islands.

There are around149 artefacts from the expedition in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) in Cambridge, including two objects directly related to the sound collections, a “Koita dance stick” and a sede bamboo gong related to lakatoi expeditions.14https://collections.maa.cam.ac.uk/objects/516563 and https://collections.maa.cam.ac.uk/objects/526123 The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford received 174 objects, also including a Koita dancing stick and a sede bamboo gong.15http://objects.prm.ox.ac.uk/pages/PRMUID18539.html and http://objects.prm.ox.ac.uk/pages/PRMUID18564.html The Horniman Museum received around 60 artefacts to the Horniman Museum, again including a Koita dancing stick and a sede bamboo gong.16https://www.horniman.ac.uk/object/6.172/ and https://www.horniman.ac.uk/object/6.176/ The Australian Museum received 24 artefacts from the expedition but we were unable to find out anything more about these.

Dunning seems to have taken many of the photographs, assisted by Daniels, and, to a lesser extent, Seligmann. Daniels noted that almost none of Seligmann’s photographs from Barton’s feast were passable due to his “weaker camera discipline and lesser experience”; the photographs taken on the same day by Dunning and Daniels were “nearly perfect” (Daniels 1904:183). There are also 848 photos from the expedition in the British Museum’s Anthropology Library, and 220 in the Royal Anthropological Institute. Seligmann gave some photographs from the 1904 trip to Haddon in the 1930s; these are now in MAA, with duplicates in the British Museum. The photographs in the British Museum are available online, and include many images of dances, particularly from Motu, Koita and Hula groups.17e.g. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/EA_Oc-B120-120

There is some film footage recorded on the expedition’s kinematograph in the British Film Institute in London. This is the earliest known film footage from British New Guinea. There are 12 short sequences of film, all of which seem to have been recorded in Central Province in 1904.18https://www2.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6a3edc82. Most were probably recorded at the feast organised by Barton on 1 July 1904; other reels include footage of dances recorded at Hanuabada and Hohodae.19Heather Donoghue email to Vicky Barnecutt 24 November 2020

Seligmann gave a paper at the Royal Geographical Society in 1906; the President introduced the lecture by saying that Seligmann “is going to illustrate his lecture by means of the biograph” (Seligmann and Strong 1906b:365).

Seligmann’s most famous student, Malinowski, borrowed a phonograph from Seligmann to take with him to New Guinea on his fieldwork trips 1914-1918. This was, presumably, the phonograph used by Malinowski to record the five cylinders in the British Library’s Bronislaw Malinowski 1918 Trobriand Islands, Territory of Papua Cylinder Collection (C46).

  • Anonymous. 1903. ‘The Daniels Ethnographical Expedition to New Guinea.’ The British Medical Journal 2, no. 2218 (4 July): 38. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20276997
  • Barton, Francis Rickman. 1910. ‘The Annual Trading Expedition to the Papuan Gulf’ in C. G. Seligmann The Melanesians of British New Guinea, 96–120.
  • Clayton, Martin. 1996. ‘Ethnographic Wax Cylinders at the British Library National Sound Archive: A Brief History and Description of the Collection.’ British Journal of Ethnomusicology 5: 67–92.
  • Daniels, William Cooke. 1904. Major Daniels diary. Manuscript. SELIGMAN/3/1/1. London: London School of Economics Library.
  • Dunlop, Ian. 1979. ‘Ethnographic Film-Making in Australia: The First Seventy Years (1898–1968).’ Aboriginal History 3/1–2: 111–119.
  • Dutton, Tom E. 1970. ‘Notes on the Languages of the Rigo Area of the Central District of Papua.’ In Pacific Linguistic Studies in Honour of Arthur Capell, ed. S. A. Wurm and D. C. Laycock, 879–984. Pacific Linguistics, C 13. Canberra: Australian National University. doi.org/10.15144/PL-C13.879.
  • Firth, Raymond. 1975. ‘Seligmann’s Contribution to Oceanic Anthropology.’ Oceania 45/4: 272–282.
  • Groves, Murray. 1972. ‘Hiri.’ In Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea, ed. Peter Ryan, 523–527. 2 volumes. Clayton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. 
  • Haddon, Alfred Cort. 1900. ‘Studies in the Anthropogeography of British New Guinea.’ The Geographical Journal 16/3: 265–291, 414–440.
  • Haddon, Alfred Cort. 1934. ‘Appreciation’ in E. Evans Pritchard et al (eds) Essays Presented to C. G. Seligman. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.
  • Kolia, John. 1975. ‘A Balawaia Grammar Sketch and Vocabulary.’ In Studies in Languages of Central and South-East Papua, ed. Tom E. Dutton, 107–226. Pacific Linguistics, C 19. Canberra: Australian National University.
  • Kolia, John. 1981. ‘The Lala and Balawaia in Central Province.’ In Oral Tradition in Melanesia, ed. Donald Denoon and Roderic Lacey, 231–39. Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea & Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies.
  • Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1922. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203421260
  • Moyle, Alice. 1983. ‘Archaeomusicological Possibilities in Australia, Torres Strait and New Guinea.’ Bikmaus 4/3: 131–135.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1903-1904. New Guinea journal. Manuscript. SELIGMAN/1/2/2. London: London School of Economics Library.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1904. ‘Note Concerning the Progress of the Cook-Daniels Expedition to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.’ Man 4: 180–181.
  • Seligmann Charles Gabriel. 1905. ‘Further Note on the Progress of the Cook-Daniels Expedition to New Guinea.’ Man 5: 52–53.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1909. A Classification of the Natives of British New Guinea. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 39 (Jan–Jun): 246–275, 314–333.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel. 1910. The Melanesians of British New Guinea. Cambridge University Press.
  • Seligmann Charles Gabriel, and Walter Mersh Strong. 1906a. ‘Anthropogeographical Investigations in British New Guinea.’ The Geographical Journal 27/3 (March): 225–242.
  • Seligmann, Charles Gabriel, and Walter Mersh Strong. 1906b. ‘Anthropogeographical Investigations in British New Guinea (Continued).’ The Geographical Journal 27/4 (April): 347–365.
  • Ward, Alan. 1984. ‘The Frazer Collection of Wax Cylinders: An Introduction.’ Recorded Sound 85: 1–11.
  • Ward, Marion W. 1970. ‘The Rigo Road: A study of the economic effects of new road construction.’ New Guinea Research Unit ANU, Canberra: Allans Printers.

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