Howitt & Fison’s anthropology

Start date
End date
Research partner(s)
Deakin University
Western Sydney University
Australian National University
La Trobe University

Howitt and Fison carried out some of the earliest anthropological research in Australia and left extensive archival materials on language, kinship, and social organisation. Whilst Howitt and Fison’s work was shaped by their professional roles and ideas such as social evolutionary theory, the papers contain cultural expertise shared by Aboriginal informants. We have treated this material as an artefact of deep and prolonged colonial encounter.

The descendants of the Aboriginal people with whom Howitt and Fison worked are key stakeholders in this collection. The material collected by Howitt and Fison constitutes one of the most important historical and cultural archives available to the Aboriginal people of south-eastern Australia, so it is crucial that the material on this website be handled with respect and care.

Through the course of the project the documents have been enriched with further information on Aboriginal and settler contributors and enhanced with linguistic, botanical and anthropological insights from contemporary scholars and Aboriginal descendants. This website features only a small portion of the materials held in the archives. Many more documents have been transcribed but are not publicly available and there are materials that have not been included. Please contact the relevant holding institution for more information. Further Howitt and Fison objects and correspondence can also be accessed via the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.


Howitt & Fison Archives
Museum Victoria
Publication date
Not listed.
Kinship acknowledged and denied: Collecting and publishing kinship materials in 19th-century settler-colonial states
Journal article
Gardner, H
History of the Human Sciences
Publication date
Rights notice
The author would like to thank Professor Marianne Sommer for her support during the writing of this article, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. The author would like to acknowledge and dedicate this article to the Gunaikurnai people of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.

© The Author(s) 2022.