Harry Geoffrey Beasley Harry Geoffrey Beasley18 December 1881–24 February 1939 Hermione Waterfield Harry Beasley’s distinctive oblong labels, with cut corners, “Beasley Collection” printed along the edge, attribution and ledger number, are well known to collectors the world over. There are also about six thousand objects distributed between the British Museum (2,123); the Royal Museum, Edinburgh (630); the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (98); the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (180); and the Merseyside County Museum, Liverpool (about 3,000). Although the Pacific was his main area of interest, Beasley also collected art from the Northwest Coast of North America, from the Arctic, from Asia (particularly Japan and Tibet), and from Africa—particularly Benin. Harry Geoffrey Beasley, The obituary photograph from Ethnologia Cranmorensis No. 4, 1939. Harry Geoffrey Beasley was born in East Plumstead, Kent, on 18 December 1881 (registered 8 January 1882) and bought two Solomon Islands clubs, when he was just thirteen years old, in 1895. Thus began an obsession which was to last his entire life. He was able to indulge his passion because he had inherited the North Kent Brewery. In 1914 he married his cousin, Irene Marguerite Beasley, who shared his interests and with whom he had two daughters. The Beasleys lived first at The Cottage, Abbey Wood, Kent, and then at Haddon Lodge, Shooters Hill in southeast London. In 1928, they moved to a house called Cranmore on Walden Road, Chislehurst, Kent, where they created the Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, with A.G. Madan as curator and Miss Joyce Gillet as assistant curator. Together they compiled the Cranmore Index on Pacific Material Culture, based on James Edge-Partington’s Index for the British Museum, and by 1937 had about 60,000 references. The museum produced a publication entitled Ethnologia Cranmorensis, the first volume of which appeared in 1937. Two followed in 1938, but alas only one in 1939, which contained the obituary of the founder. At the back of each issue were illustrated two or more items offered for exchange. As Beasley wrote in 1937: “The end of the nineteenth century was the golden age for collectors of Pacific and other specimens … families whose relations had been engaged in Naval and other expeditions and voyages released artefacts into the marketplace. It is perhaps a good thing for students of anthropology that these areas have been more or less cleared, and that these specimens of man’s handiwork, now obsolete, have found a permanent home in Institutions where their preservation is secured for all time under favourable conditions, and where they are available for study and comparison.” Having written that, he goes on to recount, “I traced a Hawaiian cape to a small country museum to be told ‘as the moth had got in it, it had been put in the dust bin.’” The Beasleys obviously hoped for a different future for their collections. A letter with the Beasley papers is probably typical of the approach he used in contacting institutions: “As the tendency is nowadays for museums, with the exception of specialist museums like ourselves, to concentrate on collections of local interest, I should be glad to learn whether your Committee would consider the transference of these specimens to this museum where in conjunction with the extensive ethnographical series, I feel that they might be of more service to science, than as isolated instances. I would mention that I have a small purchase fund available for such acquisitions.” A view of the Pacific Room at the Cranmore Ethnographical Museum, 1933 The ledgers reveal that the Beasleys also bought from dealers and at auction, but in the 1930s increasingly through contact with and from museums. They did not advertise in magazines. In Miles’s obituary on his employer for the 1939 volume of Ethnologia Cranmorensis he wrote: “For Beasley it was not merely the acquisitions of the object but the pursuit of them that held so much interest and in later life he would refer with pride to an object for which he had waited twenty years.” He also remarked that Beasley was a great correspondent, never hurried, and took hours over the entries, labels, and display of the collection, making many of the stands in his workshop himself. Beasley’s appreciation of “series” found expression in a definitive book on fishhooks from the Pacific. Then there was the catalogue for an exhibition of combs in March 1928, whichwas to be enlarged and eventually published as a book. They bought hundreds of combs during the last year of Beasley’s life for this purpose, but the project was never completed due to his unexpected death. Harry Beasley died unexpectedly of diabetes on 24 February 1939, and his friend T. A. Joyce, curator of ethnology, arranged for the collection to be housed with that of the British Museum for safekeeping at the outbreak of the Second World War. Cranmore was bombed but thankfully the collection was saved. The staff at the British Museum kept in close touch with Irene Beasley after the war. She had kept some of the collection, having distributed most of it by 1944. No doubt in recognition of their friendship with Joyce, Mrs. Beasley gave the British Museum many important pieces including an Easter Island “bird-lizard-man” and continued to offer gifts until 1971. Bryan Cranstone, William Fagg, and Elizabeth Carmichael always found her hospitable and were dismayed when dealers persuaded her to part with objects for a fraction of their value. The American, John Wise, exchanged an antler slave killer, an oblong Maori feather box, and much besides for a color television. Three other American dealers—Merton Simpson, J.J. Klejman and Allan Frumpkin—are mentioned in the ledgers. James Keggie was another visitor, and John Hewett never left her empty-handed. Bibliography BEASLEY, H.G. Fishhooks, Pacific Island Records, London, Seeley, Service & Co., 1928. J.R.A.I., “Polynesian cuttlefish baits”, 1921, Vol. LI: 100–114. J.R.A.I., “Note on Red Feather Money from Santa Cruz Group”, New Hebrides [sic], 1936, Vol. LXVI: 379–392 (with F.L. Jones) R.A.I archives. Ethnologica Cranmorensis, 1–4, 1937–1939. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 1927, Vol. 36:38 (Burial chests), 206 (Two artifacts), 297/8 (Metal Mere); 1929, Vol. 38:291 (Two Maori artifacts); 1932, Vol. 40:173 (Discussion on mere), 175 (Door lintel); 1932, Vol. 41:231/2 (Colour of feathers), 237/8 (Two Pa); 1933, Vol. 42:22/3 (Cut featherwork); 1934, Vol. 43:36/7 (A rare flax mat), 294/5 (Fern root beater); 1935, Vol. 44:65 (Two Maori artifacts), 189 (Two feather boxes). Sale catalogue, Palmeira Auction Rooms, Hove, 3 March 1975. Ledger and Papers, which include Andrew West’s essay on Beasley, in the Centre for Anthropology, British Museum. Acknowledgments Jim Hamill, Student Room; Harry Persaud, Librarian, Department of Ethnology, British Museum; Beverly Emery, Librarian, Royal Anthropological Institute; and Michael Graham-Stewart. Such was the researcher and the man—Lajos Bíró was thoroughly committed to science. As a closing word, although the ethological concept of “imprinting” cannot be attributed to him, the case of the cassowary chick hatched from his own bed took place approximately contemporaneously with the similar phenomenon and experiments discovered, in the wake of nineteenth-century precedents (Douglas Alexander Spalding), by Oskar Heinroth, and given scientific proof and popularity half a century later by the Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz. Bíró’s ethnographic notebooks and photographs, together with the objects he collected in German New Guinea (in particular those from the Huon Gulf, which are as yet mostly unpublished), constitute an ensemble of inestimable value, which has still been only partly properly investigated.