Thousands Of Pacific Artifacts To Be On Display At Auckland Museum

Project to photograph, catalogue, make collection available online gets underway

By Indira Stewart

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 31, 2016) – One of the world's largest collections of historic Pacific treasures will be displayed in a new project launched by New Zealand's Auckland War Memorial Museum.

More than 5,000 items including musical instruments, tools, ornaments and carvings from 13 different island nations will be brought out of storage, catalogued and photographed over the next three years, and made accessible online for communities and researchers worldwide.

The first focus of the Pacific Collection Access Project is the museum's Cook Islands collection, called Akairo a te Taunga, and museum staff are encouraging members of the Cook Islands community to share their insights and wisdom.

A Cook Islands community leader, Mary Ama, was invited to help identify some of the items.

"I've got so many questions, you know, because most of them have been gifted here," said Ms Aho. "Most of them are actually old and this is why they couldn't even identify what the correct name is for them. Bring it on!"

Her husband, William Hakaoro, was just as excited: "It will be interesting for the Cook Islanders to know that there is stuff here which has not been identified," he said. "It's about time those items should be identified."

The museum's Pacific Curator, Fuli Pereira, said there were items in the collection which were over 100 years old.

She described one of the many treasures in the collection, which was brought to the Museum by the late Māori ethnologist Sir Peter Buck.

"It's a chief's seat and it's about four metres long. It's all made of one piece of wood, which is absolutely amazing, with very intricate patterning down the edges of it," said Ms Pereira. "It's from Aitutaki and it's been here since about the 1920's."

The project will provide a space for Pacific communities to learn from each other, an opportunity another community leader, Ota Tuaeu, said he was grateful for.

"At least we have somewhere where we can come and store all the stuff that we've learnt and all the stuff that we've created about our cultures." he said.

The museum's efforts were aimed at bringing better understanding and knowledge about the richness of its Pacific collection, one of the world's largest.

"It's going to be huge because most museums have put their collections online," explained Ms Pereira. "But we're going to have a concerted effort to collaborate with our communities and actually have their voices be the primary voice telling the world about the collections here."

Because the bulk of the museum's collections have been in storage, Ms Pereira said the project would bring out everything it has from the Pacific, most of which has never been seen in public before.

Radio New Zealand International
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