Robert Schomburgk

Robert Schomburgk

Guyana Expedition Of Robert Schomburgk

The explorer Robert Schomburgk collected during an expedition sponsored by the Royal Geographic Society to explore British Guyana* in 1834-1839. He explored the upper Guyana River basin, collected and recorded botanical specimens and surveyed the geography.

On return to England Schomburgk exhibited his collection from Guyana at the Cosmorama, Regent Street in 1840. The collection was auctioned and Richard Cuming kept two copies of the exhibition catalogue. He cut the descriptions out from alternative pages to use as labels for the objects. We can reconstruct what he purchased by this means. According to the Cuming handwritten manuscript Richard Cuming purchased around 50 objects. We also have a letter from Schomburgk to Cuming in reply to an enquiry concerning some of the objects he had bought.

Many of the objects from the original exhibition still survive as part of the Cuming collection. The Schomburgk material comprises an important record of South American Tropical Lowland material culture. Schomburgk's detailed anthropological comments on the objects in the catalogue are refreshingly free of the ethnocentric arrogance typical of the time.

* The area explored by Schomburgk was known as the Guianas at the time and included parts of what is today British Guyana, Venezuela, French Guyana, Brazil and Surinam.