Auckland Museum has opened up access to its Pacific taonga (treasure) collection, starting with the Cook Islands on May 27, and strengthening ties with Auckland’s Pacific communities.
The Pacific Collections Access Project is about working closely with Pacific Island representatives to build knowledge around Pacific treasures.
The hope is that this knowledge will enable communities to contribute to the building of understanding and appreciation of the vast range of items in the Museum’s care.
Curator of the Pacific Collections Fuli Malo Pereira, of Tokelauan descent, says with an increase of New Zealand born Polynesians, more people are finding themselves distanced from their own cultures and this project is one way of addressing the issue.
“It’s about a legacy for them, it’s their birth-right to know what information is out there about their ancestors and islands.
“It’s our responsibility to do what we can to make that material available to our increasing younger population,” says Pereira.
It is expected that over 5000 collection items will have been processed, such as musical instruments, tools, ornaments and carvings from 13 different island nations which will be brought out of storage, catalogued, conserved and photographed over the next three years- with most of them being made available online.
Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare said the full scope of the three-year project will significantly enhance how the Museum can share Pacific treasures.
Marilyn Kohlhase, the chair of Auckland Museum’s Pacific Advisory group says there’s a bigger picture here which involves having a focus that’s more strongly Maori and Pacific.
“The galleries are going to be refreshed and updated so the stories about Pacific and Pacific peoples are going to be told differently in the future,” adding, “hopefully those stories will be able to touch and inspire new generations of visitors but especially young people”.
The first Pacific Island to receive focus is the Cook Islands. Museum staff are engaging with local Cook Island communities and inviting cultural knowledge holders to visit the museum and share insights and wisdom.
Cook Island Ministers blessed the collection, and gathered on 27 May to launch the project, giving it the Cook Islands Maori name of Akairo a te Taungo.
The project will cover the following islands in alphabetical order: Cook Islands, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawai’i, Kiribati, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna.
For more information about the Pacific Collection Access Project and to register your interest in Pacific collections, visit www.aucklandmuseum.com/pacific-connections