Donald Thomson was an anthropologist, biologist and photographer who worked with Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land, the Western Desert and southeast Australia. This project examines and documents items of material culture he collected from Arnhem Land from 1935-1937 and 1942-1943. His collections include over 2,500 photographs and 5,000 objects. During this project, fieldwork was undertaken in many of the places Thomson visited including Maningrida, Ramingining, Elcho Island, Gapuwiyak and Yirrkala.
Donald Thomson played a crucial role in solving the Caledon Bay crisis in Arnhem Land, in 1932-33. During his time in Arnhem Land he formed strong relationships with Yolngu people, which enabled him to collect rich, valuable data during his time in the area. He was also a talented photographer, who managed to capture and produce photographic material in places ill-equipped at the time for image-work. His material culture collection deserves attention for these reasons, as it grew out of and was informed by his close relationships with the people he worked with.