The Papua New Guinea collection consists of woven and carved sculptures, textiles and prints that illustrate the development of making in Papua New Guinea from the early to late 20th century.
Collecting began in 1978 with a purchase of objects facilitated by Dr Barry Craig, now Senior Curator, World Cultures, at the South Australian Museum. A gift of works by Ruth McNicoll, then Curator of Primitive Art, National Gallery of Australia, followed in 1979, and in 2006 the Museum acquired items originally collected by Dr Norman Habel. Ritual and utilitarian objects and ornaments include lime containers, spirit masks, Yena, Nogwi and Mindja figures for yam ceremonies, baskets, shields and spears, as well as tapa cloth.
In 1980 the collection extended to include screenprints purchased from the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea under the recommendation of JVS Megaw. Senior Papuan artists such as Timothy Akis, Mathias Kauage, Wkeng Aseng, Joe Nalo, David Lasisi, and Martin Morububuna are represented.