Jasmin Guenther

    Jasmin Guenther

    PhD student

    Biographical note

    Jasmin has studied Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Göttingen in Germany with a regional focus on Southeast Asia and Oceania. Taking a great interest in human-object-relationships, material cultures and museum studies, she has undertaken internships at the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hanover, the Museum of Cultures in Basel and the Museum der Völker in Schwaz. For her MA thesis, she worked with the PNG National Museum & Art Gallery and conducted research on bark paintings and contemporary art of Papua New Guinea. After completing her studies with distinction, Jasmin worked for two years at the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, assisting with the special exhibition Myanmar – The Golden Land (2014-2015) and co-curating The World of Shadow Theatre (2015-2016). In 2016, she relocated to Australia to pursue her doctorate degree at JCU under a cotutelle agreement with Aarhus University in Denmark.

    Research topic

    The movement of things – Tracing eighteenth century Polynesian artefacts from HMS Pandora

    Research outline

    Failing to find safe passage through the Great Barrier Reef, HMS Pandora sank off the Queensland coast in 1791 after a five-month search through the South Pacific for the mutineers of the Bounty. My project explores the historical and contemporary movements of artefacts excavated from the wreck, which are today stored and presented at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville. I assume that a closer look at the movements of things, i.e., shifts in place and/or context, grants a deeper understanding of both objects and people.

    Among the objects retrieved from the wreck are artefacts classified as Polynesian material culture, which prove that the Pandora’s crew had extensive contact with the populations of the islands they visited. Historical accounts and the artefacts themselves shed light on these encounters in eighteenth century Oceania, which were mainly through mechanisms of exchange. By applying anthropological methods and theory, the paths of these objects up to their present state as museum artefacts will be traced. The aim is to understand how they were differently contextualised and valued along their paths and what impact their trajectories had on the people entangled with them.

    Through engagement with the Pandora artefacts, theoretical approaches and debates concerning things and their potential agency shall be discussed and challenged. Moreover, new media has enabled both people and things to gain digital presences of themselves, adding new movements and complexities to them. In the case of museum artefacts—which are usually bound to a specific exhibition or storage spacesome interactions only become feasible because their digital forms allow them to span great physical distances and to appear in more than one place at the same time.

    The project enables the sharing and exchange of knowledge about the Pandora artefacts with other institutions worldwide and, above all, with the Pacific Island communities from which they originated. Ultimately, the research is about bringing people and things together and learning about their meaningful connections.

    Research questions

    • What kinds of relationships were afforded by the Polynesian artefacts excavated from the shipwreck of HMS Pandora in past and present?
    • What value transformations are caused by the movements of (these) things?
    • In what ways do people from the communities that once produced and used the artefacts (still) value their dispersed objects within museum collections as well as their digital forms?

    Supervisory team

    Professor Rosita Henry

    Professor Ton Otto

    Chantal Knowles, MSt

    Associate Professor Cameron Warner

    Research grants

    James Cook University Postgraduate Research Scholarship 2016-2019


    Günther, J. I. (2015). Malereien aus Papua-Neuguinea: Akteure, Repräsentationen, Identitäten [Paintings of Papua New Guinea: Actors, representations, identities]. GISCA Occasional Papers, No. 1. http://goedoc.uni-goettingen.de/goescholar/handle/1/11964 doi: 10.3249/2363-894X-gisca-1

    Günther, J. I., & de Castro, I. (Eds.). (2015). Die Welt des Schattentheaters: Von Asien bis Europa. Ausstellungskatalog des Linden-Museums Stuttgart [The world of shadow theatre exhibition catalogue]. München: Hirmer.

    Richards, MJ and Günther, J. 2019. The Past, Present and Future Values of the Polynesian Stone Adzes and Pounders Collected on the Pandora. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 29(1): 4, pp. 1–15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bha-622

    Conference presentations

    Tracing movements: researching the HMS Pandora collection', presented at the Pacific Arts Association–Europe Annual Meeting The Pacific in Europe, Europe and the Pacific, 26–28 April 2018, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Germany.

    On making a cord and tying things together, presented at the Art, Materiality and Representation conference, 1-3 June 2018, British Museum and SOAS, London.

    The past in the present: the visibility of eighteenth century Polynesian artefacts in Tahiti today, presented at the Australian Anthropological Society conference Life in an Age of Death, 4-7 December 2018, James Cook University, Cairns.

    Making new stories with old artefacts, presented at the College of Arts, Society and Education HDR conference (Re)Writing the North, 5-6 November 2019, James Cook University, Townsville.


    Exhibition Making Connections – French Polynesia and the HMS Pandora Collection, 02 August - 01 December 2019, Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville.

    Teaching experience

    Tutor at the University of Göttingen, Introduction to Anthropology: Theory and Methods (2013-2014).

    Tutor at James Cook University, Elementary German (2016).

    Tutor at James Cook University, AN3008 - Myth, Ritual and Religion (2019)

    Tutor at James Cook University, AN1001 - Anthropology: Cultural Diversity in Global Perspective (2019)


    Visual, Digital, Material Research Group

    Extended Profile

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