Caring for our Treasures at Home: The Pasifika Series

Caring for our Treasures at Home: The Pasifika Series

Every family deserves to have their taonga cared for so that they stand the test of time and can be passed down the generations. Here, we're sharing toolkits in 9 Pasifika languages, Te Reo Māori, and English to help families access Museum guidelines for caring for precious items at home. 

Caring for family archives 

Look after photos, documents, and other archival taonga


Caring for Tapa 

Look after your tapa at home, or in your community


Discover the kaupapa

Leone Samu Tui, Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage (Pacific Collections)

We interviewed Leone to learn more about the kaupapa behind this exceptional mahi.

AM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role as Associate Curator, Documentary Heritage (Pacific Collections)

LST: Talofa lava. My name is Leone Samu Tui. Since January 2020 I’ve had the privilege of holding this unique and very special role within the Documentary Heritage team at Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Across Documentary Heritage collections (publications, manuscripts, pictorial collections) I surface stories related to Pacific people, experiences, and places. A big part of my job is supporting Pacific communities to make connections with these collections.

There are four main activities that I concentrate on in this role: collection development – I propose new acquisitions to come into the collection that reflect Pacific stories; increase accessibility to collections – which has involved digitising and sharing a lot more online some of our rare books and resources; researching our collections to understand them more in order to help others with their research; and engagement, finding ways to welcome visitors and connect collections whether in person, online, or off site.

AM: What drew you to this project?

LST: Over the years I’ve received questions from people comfortable enough to email me or direct message me – how can I take care of my family’s tapa cloth? What can I do to look after my mum’s photographs? While there are many resources you can access online if you go looking, Auckland Museum didn’t yet have a hub of resources (which it is developing now). Further, there are not a lot of resources in Pacific languages which is a key focus for me and my work area. 

This project represents accessibility – sharing information about caring for taonga. Demystifying and leaving any sense of uncertainty, giving people at home some tips and guidance with a range of steps to prevent deterioration of their treasures. 

I’ve been asked for advice on topics of care that I simply didn’t know enough about myself BUT I knew and worked with very knowledgeable conservators in the collection care department who are passionate about what they do. They work wonders in bringing back taonga to looking and being the best preserved they can be. 

The project received very generous funding support from the Tennyson Charitable Trust as well as the Centre for Pacific Languages. This project could not exist without their support!

AM: How did you gather the information contained in the toolkits?

LST: These toolkits represent the expertise, talents, and hearts of a range of people who work at Auckland Museum. Conservators, writers, photographers, fellow curators, members of our marketing and public-facing teams have all played a part in bringing these resources to the public. All have been very supportive with bringing this project to fruition.

The museum’s guidelines emphasise how to preserve in the long term. There are simple steps, preventative conservation, that anyone can do at home, to a few more advanced guidelines if people want to invest a little more resource. Some resources are cost prohibitive to people, and so there are alternatives that can be accessed at home that will do just as good a job. 

Key colleagues who I went to for advice and assistance with this were very happy to help lend their expertise in this manner. Our paper conservator Erin Walker, our former conservator Sabine Weik, and more recently our current textile conservator Staphany Cheng have all given valuable time and thought into guiding the advice from a museum conservation point of view. I had many pairs of eyes read over it and give me feedback, many conversations, and aspects I had not considered. 

I also took time to ask a range of others about these resources and what worked and what didn’t. I am very grateful to my first draft readers: Fotuosamoa Jody Jackson, Caroline Matamua, Te Whaimatauranga Smith, Doron Semu, Kelesoma Saloa, and the museum’s Pacific Advisory Group. Also grateful to Emily Parr, Cora-Allan Lafaiki-Twiss, Laka Gallery and Ebonie Fifita-Laufilitoga Maka for their contributions to the resource on caring for tapa cloth.

In the case of the tapa care resource, I called on extra expertise and lived experience outside of the Museum. There are several makers in the wider Tamaki Makaurau area that have grown and nurtured a practice of tapa making, and it was important to represent those lived practicing perspectives in this booklet. While the guidelines are from a museum point of view, its important to note to the public that the museum’s way is not the only way. It’s one of many. If you too wish to keep a treasured piece of tapa cloth in as pristine condition as possible in your home, there are a range of actions you can take to achieve that. If you want to fold and gift or observe cultural protocols with your tapa cloth, there is knowledge being generously shared around those practices too. Overall I’ve come to more deeply appreciate the meanings behind tapa cloth in their many variations, and I’ve since learned how susceptible we are in Auckland city to humidity as this can wreck tapa cloth AND treasured archival family collections. 

AM: The toolkits will be available online, but there will also be physical copies – was it important to have a tangible version?

It was very important to have physical copies of these guides especially so that they could be distributed in future community engagement events. There are advantages to having physical and digital formats! The digital formats can be shared widely, even beyond Aotearoa, and the physical booklets which are full of beautiful images and well-designed can be kept as reference guides in the home, within people’s shelves and own collections.

AM: Do you have any plans to release further toolkits in the future?

LST: While it has been a long gestation, the positive feedback at each of these steps from a range of different people and thankfully feedback especially from the Pacific Advisory Group has always been encouraging and future-thinking. There could be future resource guides to tend to the care of weaving, of other items made from plant and animal material etc. These guides represent the Museum’s ongoing commitment to share expertise and information to our public audiences and being receptive to learning about techniques for care of taonga that already exist in communities.