Whaowhia te kete mātauranga
Fill the basket of knowledge
As the museum’s cataloguing librarian, I spend my days creating what I think of as “dating profiles” for the books in our collections. There is nothing more exciting to me than the idea that someone, somewhere, is searching for this book with all of their soul, and that person and pukapuka might one day “match” through the data I create. This also leads to the sadness when I see records for books where the data excludes people from finding the match of their dreams.
The conventional approach to cataloguing creates a very particular “dating profile” for a book - one based on the English language, and on Western ideas of information classification and hierarchy. When we describe our books from this Western perspective, we reduce the chances of anyone “matching” with the book using Māori ideas and language. Instead of looking for pakiwaitara, you have to search for “Folklore—New Zealand”; instead of mana whenua, “Land tenure—New Zealand”. To catalogue a book in Aotearoa New Zealand today, we must do better to create “matches” between each book and Māori communities, Māori language, and Māori ideas.
The Māori Subject Headings Working Party was created in 1998 to create a list of “Māori language terms that enables quality access and findability for te Reo Māori language users and Te Ao Māori thinkers.”1 The kaupapa was developed through the dedicated work of many people, including Rangiiria Hedley and Whina Te Whiu, who connect our museum to this vital mahi.
Officially launched in 2006, Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori Subject Headings) are structured around Māori ways of knowing, Māori organisation of knowledge, and te Reo Māori. Including these keywords in our records gives our books a fighting chance at “matching” with an Aotearoa audience that speaks te Reo Māori and embraces Māori knowledge. Since its launch, it’s been recognised around the world for its mana.2
However, Ngā Upoko Tukutuku are often used just for materials on Māori topics. This is strange – why would a culture only want to know about itself? Judging from our bookshelves, people are curious about many things: botany, war, history, cooking, the many cultures of the world... That we don’t afford the same curiosity to those seeking information from a Māori perspective increases racial inequity in access to knowledge. As Māori information advocacy group Te Rōpū Whakahau ask, “if Māori youth are first language speakers of Māori, are educated in Māori culture, why would they want to find material that only describes information by, for and about Māori?”7
With this in mind, I partnered with our Māori Resources & Mātauranga Advisor, Geraldine Warren, to select ten books as broad and as varied as the Museum collections themselves. We wanted to showcase what Māori Subject Headings can look like on books about the Pacific, or Shakespeare, or illustrated birds. We wanted to showcase how these keywords not only increase access, but also enhance the meaning of records - for all audiences.
And so for each of the ten books, Geraldine selected a broad range of Māori Subject Headings that explained their kaupapa. Then, in conversation with Documentary Heritage team members Te Whai Mātauranga-Smith and Leone Samu, we wrote down some whakaaro (thoughts) that arose from the pairing of each book with its headings.
It is our hope that these examples will provide inspiration to readers and cataloguers alike on how Māori Subject Headings can be used to create stronger, more accessible records. This mahi will not only increase equity in access, but will also serve to hold high mātauranga and reo Māori as the indispensable heart of Aotearoa’s intellectual life.