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In the Wake of Captain Cook: The Travels of Gordon Augustus Thomson (1799-1886)

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 09, 1993


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by Winifred Glover

Principal Donor of Ethnographic Objects to the Ulster Museum, Belfast

"The Ethnographic collection in the Ulster Museum, Belfast contains approximately 4,000 specimens. Although relatively small numerically, it contains some important early specimens and most of these come from the collection of Gordon Augustus Thomson, an Ulsterman whose travels took him to many parts of the world which Cook's voyages made accessible for the first time.

The eighteenth century was remarkable for the progress made in expanding man's knowledge of the world. The three epic voyages of Captain James Cook from 1769-1776, following on earlier voyages of discovery by Dutch, Portuguese and French explorers, opened up the Islands of the Pacific Ocean to the not always benign benefits and advantages of the 'civilised' world."

This article looks at the life of Gordon Augustus Thomson, who was the principal donor of ethnographic objects to the Ulster Museum in Belfast.