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Te Awe is about enriching, reorganising, and improving the care of our 10,000+ taonga Māori in a way that is embedded in Mātauranga Māori. Through this mahi we will make the taonga Māori collection more visible and accessible to iwi, hāpu, whānau, museum staff, researchers, and the public.
The project started in 2013 with Phase 1, in which over 5,400 taonga made from wood and stone passed through the project team’s caring hands. In this current phase, which commenced in 2017, we are working through another 5,000+ textiles and items woven from plant materials.
The name of our project, Te Awe, refers to adornment, the additions that embellish taonga through ornamentation – the hair and feathers at the head of a taiaha or heel of a toki, the tags and tassels of kākahu. As with these acts of embellishment, our project seeks to uphold the mana of taonga in Auckland Museum by advancing our care of them, stabilising their forms, suitably re-housing them, and improving digital access to them through images and documentation. Through these actions, we adorn the taonga in our care.
Over the course of the project each collection item is processed by our specialist team of nine . This mahi includes:
- Enriching collection database records
- Appropriately describing taonga using suitable terms, techniques and materials
- Correcting and standardising terminology and classifications
- Cleaning and stabilising taonga to prevent future deterioration
- Capturing high resolution images
- Improving storage to be safe and accessible
As part of our Mātauranga Māori approach, we are partnering with our Taumata Māreikura, a group made up of some of Aotearoa’s most skilled and experienced weavers. For every momo (object grouping) we host a wānanga with the Taumata Māreikura, where we all look at a selection of taonga and provide space for discussions to happen. These discussions help us to confirm the kupu that we use, and provide a space in which to tease out tikanga. As customary practitioners, the Taumata Māreikura have a wealth of knowledge that enriches our databases and museum practices. Greater contextual knowledge about the harvesting and preparation of weaving materials, weaving processes, use, and storage of taonga informs our decisions through every step of the project.
The first phase of this project (2013-2016), centred on the renewal of Auckland Museum's carving store, home to approximately 5,400 carved taonga. Amongst these are decorative carvings from whare, domestic and agricultural tools, tiki, pūtātara (conch trumpets), waka and hoe (canoes and paddles), and weaponry such as patu and taiaha. Crafted from pounamu (greenstone), bone, shell, and various stones and wood, these taonga speak to all aspects of Māori material culture and exemplify the diverse range of styles and techniques developed over generations.