Pacific engagement key to unlocking history

posted: 11:00 am - 7th December 2018
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(Picture caption: Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio, right, and Cultural Knowledge Holder from Niue Malamahemoka Ogotau look over measina from Auckland Museum's Samoan collection to be worked on as part of PCAP over the next three months.)

Pacific community engagement has been the key to unlocking the mysteries and history behind some of the collections Auckland War Memorial Museum cares for from around the region. 

The Pacific Collection Access Project (PCAP) started in May 2016 with the intention to work through the collections the Museum cares for from 13 Pacific island nations over three years, and it is due to be completed in July 2019. 

Improving the Museum’s knowledge and understanding of the Pacific collection, as well as its long term safety and access to the Pacific collection and increasing public access and engagement, especially for Auckland’s Moana Pacific communities, with the Museum and its Pacific collection are some of PCAP’s key objectives, Museum Programme Manager - Collection Readiness Jami Williams says.   

To date, the collections which have been explored by their relevant Pacific communities include the Cook Islands collection which had a total of 946 objects; Fiji (1328 objects); French Polynesia (376 objects); Hawai’i (215 objects); Kiribati (1148 objects); and Niue (298 objects). 

Before July, collections from Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Pitcairn Islands, Rapa Nui, Wallis and Futuna, and Large Fiji clubs will be examined by the respective communities living throughout New Zealand. 

In total, 6,041 objects will be brought out of storage, undergo conservation treatment, rehoused/repacked into safe and accessible new storage, catalogued (measured, described, researched), and digital images will be taken of each item. 

Cultural Knowledge Holders from Auckland’s Moana Pacific communities have been and will continued to be engaged to work with the cataloguing team to enrich the Museum’s collection management system records.   

As part of the cataloguing process they bring back the indigenous names to each object, explain how they were made, what they were made from and how the objects were used. 

This information is added to the collection management system along with additional relevant information the Museum holds in its paper files. 

Once all the new information is added, including the new images then as each island’s collection is completed the information is released via the Auckland Museum’s Collections Online. 

Jami says there has been an overwhelming positive response from Auckland’s Pacific communities, and Museum staff feels privileged to work with amazing Cultural Knowledge Holders from Auckland’s Moana Pacific communities.   

“The wider community for each island has got fully involved by attending PCAP community open days at the Museum, where they are able to view up close the many treasures from their island and ancestors,” she adds. 

“So far since the project started over 5,700 visitors have been through the project.” 

Every object in the collection is significant and a treasure, and the PCAP team has uncovered many stories and learnt so much about these objects and where they come from while working alongside the Cultural Knowledge Holders from each island. 

“A great outcome from the project is each object is named in its own language and information about the materials they are made from and how they were used has been added to the Museum’s database from the contribution of the Cultural Knowledge Holders,” Jami says. 

“This is enriching the Museum’s records greatly and the information will be accessible to others all over the world as collections are updated and made accessible online.”

 As each island’s collection is worked on there are often objects the Knowledge Holders are delighted to find in the Museum as many of these items are no longer made today or even found where they originate from, Jami explains. 

“This has been the catalyst for many discussions among the Knowledge Holders and some of these objects have been shared broadly with their communities via social media during the project.”  

The Museum has many items from across the Pacific on display in its permanent Pacific galleries on the ground floor of Auckland Museum.

However, while PCAP is underway, community open days are run as each island’s collection is the focus of the project. 

November 23 marked the end of the project’s time in Niue and the transition of the project to Samoa. 

In an event, attended by HE Consul General of Samoa Afioga Faaolotoi Fatialofa Reupena Pogi and Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio, the work undertaken with the Niuean community on their collection was celebrated, while signalling the start of the work getting underway on the Samoan collection. 

Samoa is being showcased currently until February, with the first Samoan community open day taking place on December 15, from 10am, with a second day planned for January 19, 2019. 

The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Pacific collection is the most diverse and significant of its type in the country and considered world-class, made up of over 30,000 objects, Jami says. 

“PCAP is forging new ground in terms of Museum practice, especially in the way it has worked with Cultural Knowledge Holders and engaged communities with their collections,” she adds. 

“Most importantly the information provided by Cultural Knowledge Holders from our Moana Pacific communities goes on the record and is available to share with people from around the world via collections online and will contribute to new galleries in the Museum.”

 The information about the collection supports research, engagement and cultural identity, and the hope is the work of PCAP will become business as usual at Auckland Museum, inspiring other Museums to work in a similar way with their collections and their communities, she says.

 To view the Samoa collection, attend the PCAP Samoa community days or alternatively, email PCAP Community Facilitators Miriam Asolupe and Larry Nimalota via email or to make an appointment.

 Visit PCAP for more information.