Willi Fels Collection

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Willi Fels Collection

Molly Macalister, sculptor
Fels (1858-1946) was a collector of Maori artefacts and benefactor of the Otago Museum, Dunedin. He was born in Germany and migrated to join relatives in Otago, becoming a principal in the merchant firm founded by the family. He collected artefacts from Maori coastal sites in Otago and built a a large private collection of Maori and items of worldwide origin. Charles Brasch, his grandson joined him on some of his collecting trips from Dunedin. The death of his only son in the first world war lead to many donations and an eventual bequest to the Otago Museum.

A search for Fels on the Otago Museum website will turn up many pages of items associated with him or purchased by the fund, many from classical archaeological origins.

A 1930 extension to the museum known as the Fels Wing resulted and a fund used for subsequent purchases. He also funded a lectureship in anthropology at Otago University taken up on a part time basis by H D Skinner. It was the first such position in New Zealand.

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He was also a benefactor of the Otago University library.

Fels has an entry in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand [1].