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Auckland Museum strengthens Pacific connections

Monday, 30 May 2016

Auckland Museum is opening up access to its Pacific taonga collection and creating stronger connections with Auckland’s Pacific communities.

Respected Cook Islands community representatives Mary Ama and William Hakaoro who gifted the Cook Islands name to the project "Akairo a te Taunga". Pictured Left to right: Mary Ama, Kimi Hakaoro, William Hakaoro, standing: Ruth Strickland.

Max Lemeshenko/Get Communications for Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The Museum is working closely with Island representatives to build knowledge of the Pacific treasures, and create a stronger understanding and appreciation of the vast range of items in the Museum’s care. This is another major step in the evolution of the published vision Future Museum and the Museum’s Pacific dimension expressed in Teu Le Vā.

Treasures such as musical instruments, tools, ornaments and carvings from 13 different island nations/groupings will be brought out of storage, catalogued, conserved and photographed over the next three years.

The first Pacific island nation to receive focus is the Cook Islands. Museum staff are engaging with local Cook Islands communities and inviting cultural knowledge holders to visit the Museum to share their insights and wisdom.

Cook Islands Ministers have blessed the collection, and community leaders gifted the project the Cook Islands Maori name of Akairo a te Taunga.

Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare said the full scope of the three year project will significantly enhance how the Museum can share Pacific treasures.

"This project follows Te Awe which for three years has been dedicated to our Māori collections. It is a major undertaking and builds on the success of programmes that have focused on our Pacific collection including the ‘Entangled Islands’ exhibition, which  is now in Samoa, and the collaboration with Mangere Arts Centre to celebrate aspects of the Kiribati collections held in the Museum.

To be able to dig deeper to better understand and exchange knowledge about the richness of these Pacific collections further - onsite, online and offsite - on such an impressive scale is very exciting." 

Cook Islands artist and Takitua, Tuaratini says "To me this project is about more than just identifying artefacts. Every item will tell a story about its origin, its journey, its ancestry and its connection to our community. Those stories are the key to connecting our community to its past."

Guests at the Cook Islands blessing previewing a selection of the Cook Islands collection, behind the scenes at Auckland Museum.

Max Lemeshenko/Get Communications for Auckland War Memorial Museum.

By the end of three years, it is expected that over 5000 collection items will have been processed, providing a vast breadth of information, images and cultural connections for communities, researchers and future generations.

The project will cover the following islands in alphabetical order: Cook Islands, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawai’i, Kiribati, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna.

For more information about the project and to register your interest in Pacific collections, visit the Pacific Collection Access Project homepage.