Connecting Pacific Communities with their cultural heirlooms

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Auckland Museum is opening up access to its Pacific treasures collection and creating stronger connections with Auckland's Pacific communities. The project will enable the Pacific collection to be better known, cared for and accessible onsite, offsite and online.

Auckland War Memorial Museum is giving Pacific Communities the opportunity to connect with their cultural heirlooms.

Community Engagement Facilitator, Toluma'anave Barbara Makuati-Afitu, “We've had a lot of community groups come in. We've had a lot of Mamas and Papas and a lot of tamariki come in and just the strength of them being able to breath on their taonga, being able to connect with their taonga that their ancestors made as descendants it's just been a really beautiful experience.”

Launched in 2016, the project focuses on 5,000 taonga from 13 islands of the Pacific while the Museum accommodates up to 30,00 cultural heirlooms from the Pacific.

Project Curator, Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai says, “Identifying and acknowledging that within that term 'Moana Pacific' there's diversity and there's different approaches and different knowledge systems with each of those island nations and how can we tell those stories using those different lenses and in a genuine and authentic way and in a way that acknowledges our cultures as living cultures.”

Makuati-Afitu says, “Ensuring that communities are not talked about but talked with, making sure that they are part of this journey.”

An undertaking with numerous benefits, it does not come without challenges.

Toluma'anave Barbara Makuati-Afitu says, “We've been challenged by a lot of Papas around you know if this is a Cook Island collection where are the cookie hands who should be dealing with their taonga? It's a great challenge, the beginning of a kōrero (discussion), you know what does that mean, so we're asking the Papa to start looking at getting his moko to start thinking about a career in the museum.”

The project timeline runs through to 2019.