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Jonathan Friedlaender in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, circa 1966.

Friedlaender Collection


The Friedlaender Collection is an eclectic assortment of artifacts gathered by Jonathan Friedlaender during his travels in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. While there, he collected biomedical data from six cultural groups on the islands of Malaita and Bougainville in a longitudinal study taking place over the course of decades, a study whose scope was unusually vast for those conducted in non-Western societies at the time.

While his excursions were primarily for this purpose, Friedlaender was very interested in acquiring art and other material artifacts from the peoples he visited. These cultures were all in varying stages of industrialization under Western influence, with some being more traditional than others. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands became independent nations in the 70s; having begun his work in the region sometime in the late 60s, Friedlaender was perfectly positioned to witness social change and to record any emergent health trends that might coincide within that timeline.

Emblematic of this societal shift, particularly of increasing medical resources, are the series of comic-style posters, written by medical researcher Nicky Cape and illustrated by B. Osake, published through Wirui Press. The posters convey practical health information and dispel common misconceptions in Tok Pisin, a pidgin language from the Solomon Islands.

The comic on the right begins with a concerned mother who believes her child does not need a vaccine because he is not sick. The nurse explains that vaccinating your child is like building a fence around a garden, which convinces the mother that her child should get the shot, much to the child's chagrin.

A version of this same comic can be found here with an English translation. Tok Pisin to English translating dictionaries can also be found here, here, and here.

The collection also includes seashells, jewelry, masks, instruments, tool heads, a fish hook, tapa cloths, baskets and bags, combs, fans, clubs, arrows, flags, carved and woven figures, and more, including the carved prow of a canoe, pictured on the bottom right. These artifacts are sourced primarily from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, but also places like Fiji and Java.


Schwager, Michael. "The Price of Westernization." The Temple University Alumni Review. Fall 1980, pp. 18-22.

Cape, Nicky. "Growth charts: help or hindrance?" Health Policy and Planning, June 1988, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp. 167-170.

Barhorst, Terry D., and O'Dell-Barhorst, Sylvia. "Pidgin/English Dictionary."


To learn more, explore our exhibits featuring the Friedlander collection



Delve deeper into the masks featured in the Friedlaender collection, as well as many from other collections.

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Learn more about some of the instruments Friedlaender collected from the Solomon islands, including the Kundu drum pictured here.

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