Alfred Russel Wallace was thirty-one years old when he arrived in Singapore on 19th April 1854. He had come to collect natural history specimens for sale in London, and to develop his scientific knowledge about the natural world. He spent the next eight years travelling across the Malay archipelago on his mission of discovery.
Four years into this collecting odyssey, Wallace arrived on the spice island of Ternate and hitched a ride on a Dutch-owned trade ship bound for Dorey, New Guinea. He was in search of birds-of-paradise and other exotic specimens, and spent the next four months travelling and collecting thousands of insect and bird specimens for sale and for his private collection .
In the company of fellow explorer, Max Robertson, I travelled in 2015 to this theatre of collecting, with the support of the British Academy/ Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant Scheme, and the University of Cambridge Newnham College Gibbs Travelling Research Fellowship. Our journey gave us the opportunity to reflect on Wallace’s collecting experiences and connect with the echoes of people and place entangled in this story.
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