Collection in profile: The Leonhard Adam Collection of International Indigenous Culture

Managed by the Ian Potter Museum of Art as part of the University of Melbourne Art Collection, the Leonhard Adam Collection of International Indigenous Culture includes items from Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Asia, America and Africa. It was formed largely by Dr Leonhard Adam, a distinguished scholar and lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Melbourne during the 1940s and 1950s.

Adam was born in Berlin in 1891 where he studied ethnology, law and Sinology, joined the Bar and served as a Judge. After fleeing Germany, he was deported from England during WWII. He arrived in Victoria aboard the prisoner of war ship Dunera in 1940, and after a period of internment at Tatura, joined the staff of the university.

An important group of thirty-six painted barks from Groote Eylandt, collected in 1945 for an exhibition in Melbourne, and given to the University in 1946, is one of the highlights of the Collection. The University of Melbourne Archives also holds a collection of Leonard Adam’s papers including manuscripts, research notes, artefact catalogues, correspondence, field diaries and photographs.

Image: Native American Hopi tribe vegetable fibre tray, n.d. The Leonhard Adam Collection of International Indigenous Culture, University of Melbourne Art Collection