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The Future of Indigenous Museums

The Future of Indigenous Museums: Perspectives from the Southwest Pacific

Edited by Nick Stanley
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Future of Indigenous Museums
    Book Description:

    Indigenous museums and cultural centres have sprung up across the developing world, and particularly in the Southwest Pacific. They derive from a number of motives, ranging from the commercial to the cultural political (and many combine both). A close study of this phenomenon is not only valuable for museological practice but, as has been argued, it may challenge our current bedrock assumptions about the very nature and purpose of the museum. This book looks to the future of museum practice through examining how museums have evolved particularly in the non-western world to incorporate the present and the future in the display of culture. Of particular concern is the uses to which historic records are put in the service of community development and cultural renaissance.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-572-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editorial Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Hirini Mead
  5. Introduction: Indigeneity and Museum Practice in the Southwest Pacific
    (pp. 1-20)
    Nick Stanley

    Over the past decade or more the Southwest Pacific has provided a type of laboratory for new cultural developments. For the study of culture, particularly in material form displayed in museums, the region has, as in the eighteenth century, offered novel perspectives to scholars and the public both in the region as well as elsewhere in the world. This book examines the growth of cultural centres in the area and seeks reasons both for their genesis and their continued popularity. In so doing the authors here are following up a landmark publication, Soroi Eoe and Pamela Swadling’s 1991 study entitled...

  6. Part I Island Melanesia

    • 1 Resourcing Change: Fieldworkers, the Women’s Culture Project and the Vanuatu Cultural Centre
      (pp. 23-37)
      Lissant Bolton

      In 1997 a senior official of the Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW) came to a meeting of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre’s women volunteer extension workers, known as fieldworkers. She began her presentation by saying, ‘We all know that inkastomwomen are nothing.’ The women fieldworkers, unfailingly courteous, made no response, but after she left the meeting they were outraged. Their project, the Women’s Culture Project, was founded in 1991 on the proposition that ‘women havekastomtoo’, that is to say that women, as much as men, are the holders of indigenous knowledge and practice. By 1997, the...

    • 2 The Future of Indigenous Museums: The Solomon Islands Case
      (pp. 38-46)
      Lawrence Foana‘ota

      This chapter aims to trace and explain the development of museum activities in the Solomon Islands. Generally it will try to examine the efforts made to establish the first museum based on a European concept in a fast-changing but resilient indigenous cultural environment. The idea of bringing together artefact collections representing different and diverse cultures and societies under one roof was a new phenomenon for the indigenous population of the islands. It came as part of a broad range of outside influences that were expected to affect the way people think about their own cultural heritage, and protect, preserve and...

    • 3 Dangerous Heritage: Southern New Ireland, the Museum and the Display of the Past
      (pp. 47-69)
      Sean Kingston

      Yes, I heard about the museum when I was in Rabaul. But I did not want to visit, I would be scared, those spirits/ancestors [tubuna] would not know me.

      This was the reaction of our friend Tangrai to our enquiry as to whether he had visited the small museum in Rabaul, the large town on the neighbouring island of New Britain. For him and other people in Lak, on the southern part of New Ireland, the processes of gathering and displaying icons of the past, of heritage, are far from unknown; however, there, such processes, which are basic to our...

    • 4 Memory, Violence and Representation in the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia
      (pp. 70-77)
      Diane Losche

      Museums are often born with the nation state, and, so the usual story goes, reflect aspects of that state. At the same time not all aspects of history and culture are represented. Certain events, especially those associated with the violence that often attends the origin of the state, present problems for representation in museums and may be suppressed or represented in indirect, convoluted ways. Many cultural centres in the Pacific region seem to conform to a narrative that ignores the fact that some, at least, have emerged from ruins and violent pasts and thus cultural centres seem rather clean spaces,...

    • 5 Tourism and Indigenous Curation of Culture in Lifou, New Caledonia
      (pp. 78-90)
      Tate LeFevre

      Since 1996 cruise ships carrying thousands of Australian tourists have docked on the small island of Lifou, New Caledonia. Once every two weeks or so, boatloads of excited, photo-snapping tourists are ferried between the massivePacific Princesscruise ship and a dock constructed especially for them by the island’s indigenous Kanak people. Australians in Bermuda shorts and bikinis swarm onto the shore, taking a moment to glance at a group of Kanak singing traditional songs of welcome. They then head up to a large thatched pavilion, built exclusively to receive such a horde. Inside the pavilion, Kanak women in brightly...

  7. Part II Northern Australia

    • 6 The Journey of the Stars: Gab Titui, a Cultural Centre for the Torres Strait
      (pp. 93-116)
      Anita Herle, Jude Philp and Leilani Bin Juda

      On the weekend of 16 April 2004Gab Tituiopened on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait (figure 6.1).³ The opening ceremony, associated cultural performances and inaugural exhibition of Torres Strait art and material culture, dating from the early nineteenth century to the present day, were the result of over twenty years’ persistent interest by Islanders and others in the creation of an indigenous ‘museum’. The result is a multifaceted cultural centre with goals to enhance and promote a strong Torres Strait cultural identity and to act as a catalyst for cultural, social and economic revitalization.

      The cultural identity of...

    • 7 ‘Quite Another World of Aboriginal Life’: Indigenous People in an Evolving Museumscape
      (pp. 117-134)
      Eric Venbrux

      ‘Morning tea with Tiwi Ladies’ is one of the attractions for tourists visiting Bathurst and Melville Islands in northern Australia. Indigenous graveyards and the production of arts and crafts are part and parcel of the itinerary. The islands have a history of one hundred years as a ‘destination culture’ (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998) for tourists and anthropologists alike. From the early years of the twentieth century onwards museum interests have been a steady factor in shaping the islanders’ interrelationship with the wider world.

      Items of material culture were collected here in great quantities and ended up in museums all over the world....

  8. Part III New Guinea

    • 8 The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery as a Modern Haus Tumbuna
      (pp. 137-150)
      Sebastian Haraha

      In most developing countries the role of traditional art has changed since independence, and it is no different in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The PNG National Museum and Art Gallery was an independence gift from the Australian government, built next to the Parliament building in Waigani, one of the new suburbs of Port Moresby, our national capital. For more than fifteen years I have worked in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum and Art Gallery as a senior technical officer. I have also been fortunate to have visited a number of large and important museums, such as the...

    • 9 Moving the Centre: Christianity, the Longhouse and the Gogodala Cultural Centre.
      (pp. 151-169)
      Alison Dundon

      In the middle of 1995, after a stay of several months in Tai village amongst Gogodala speakers in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), my partner Charles and I set out to visit a longhouse in the village of Kini, some distance south of Tai. From the time that Charles and I had arrived in the central town of Balimo in February 1995, we had been aware of the presence of the Kini Cultural Centre, yet those in Tai and surrounding villages evinced little interest in it and most had not seen it for themselves. It was not...

    • 10 Indigenous Responses to Political and Economic Challenges: the Babek Bema Yoma at Teptep, Papua New Guinea
      (pp. 170-189)
      Christin Kocher Schmid

      This article traces the history of a cultural centre and museum, the motives for setting it up, its role in local and national politics, as well as its significance for the different stakeholders involved in the process. The institution discussed here is part of a set of interlinked strategies applied not only by rural people to gain access to the cash economy and to exert political influence but also by members of the elite to access the network of decision makers and thus to participate in the distribution of funds and power on the provincial and national levels.

      The cultural...

    • 11 Can Museums become Indigenous? The Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress and Contemporary Papua
      (pp. 190-204)
      Nick Stanley

      One of the burdens that indigenous museums bear is that they are heir to Western concepts and definitions of the very term ‘museum’. Furthermore, as one commentator has noted ruefully, ‘museums, and the various forms of heritage derivatives, have in fact contributed to a form of institutionalised rationalization of the past’ (Walsh 1992: 176). Whilst, as Lask notes (2005: 9) museums are currently ‘reassuming, through a witty pedagogy, their former role as places of popular amusement more than institutions of solid production of scientific facts’, the author also situates contemporary museums like the Museum of the 21stCentury in Tokyo...

  9. Part IV Reflections on the Future of Indigenous Museums

    • 12 The Transformation of Cultural Centres in Papua New Guinea
      (pp. 207-222)
      Robert L. Welsch

      When George W. Stocking, Jr. (1985) solicited contributions for the third volume in his History of Anthropology series,Objects and Others, he wrote that he was hoping to obtain essay submissions about how anthropologists had changed the ways that they approached the study and meaning of objects. But instead of papers about objects, he largely received contributions focused on the institutions that housed ethnographic objects: the museum. Stocking’s experience suggests how strong the linkage between objects and museums is in the minds of anthropologists. In the twenty years since – in part because of Stocking’s book – anthropologists have taken...

    • 13 The Theoretical Future of Indigenous Museums: Concept and Practice
      (pp. 223-234)
      Christina Kreps

      It is appropriate that this volume opens with reference to Hirini Mead’s article ‘Indigenous Models of Museums in Oceania’, which appeared in the ICOM journalMuseumin 1983. The article was indeed seminal since up to that time little had been published on non-Western museums, much less so-called ‘indigenous museums’. In fact, Mead may be credited with introducing the very concept of indigenous museums, and opening our eyes to the existence of other museological forms and practices. In addition to questioning the ‘common sense’ behind reproducing the western museum model in non-Western contexts, Mead also illuminated how Pacific islanders have...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 235-238)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-268)