Penny argues that the scientists who created monumental ethnographic museums in Imperial Germany were driven not by imperialist or racist motives, but by the desire to demonstrate theories about the essential nature of human beings through their museums' collections.
Originally published in German in 1923, this work records much of Vanuatu's early material culture. It is the result of two years of field work by Swiss anthropologist Felix Speiser between 1910 and 1912. Speiser attempted to collect everything that could still be obtained of the objects constituting Vanuatu's native culture. Ethnology of Vanuatu presents culturally and historically significant photographs and drawings by Speiser assembled during the expedition, along with color photos taken in the Basel Museum, which, taken together, represent the Speiser collection. Through the use of Speiser's collection of cultural photographs and illustrations, it has been possible to revive certain art forms thought to have already vanished.