Needless to say challenges arose in our quest due to a lack of available knowledge to address the many questions about the origin of those objects, their names, their purpose, the material used and their historical context.
For a person whose cultural knowledge is well above average, my expectations were that if need be, I could rely on other knowledge holders to plug the gaps in my own understanding when necessary. This wasn’t always easy and I found myself carrying out information seeking and organising the Pacific Collection Access Project with some additional volunteers to increase our knowledge base.
Thankfully several Pacific communities - namely Fiji and the Cook Islands – had worked with the Museum to enrich their collections, so we could tap into the bank of knowledge and experience from these island communities. It helped tremendously to be able to extract some information from those Island Collections especially by relying on linguistic similarities.
The other moving experience was being able to reconnect and rediscover some of our ancestors’ artefacts that had been kept for so long in the Museum and had yet to be displayed on the gallery floor. It became the focus of the community and mine to reveal, through the objects recorded, the different cultures that existed in indigenous Ma’ohi Nui. It is a region as vast as Europe peppered with five archipelagos each with their own specificity: the Society Islands epitomised by their magnificent wakas; the Austral islands with their finely carved ceremonial hoe; the Tuamotus with their envious pupu (shells); Mangareva with its unique tao (javelin) with a stingray ragged tail at their tips; and the Marquesas with their unmistakable ’u’u (club).