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Auckland Museum to unlock hidden stories behind Fijian Collection

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Viewing Fijian treasures in the Pacific Collection Access Project hub.

Image: Max Lemesh.Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Auckland Museum hosted Fijian leaders, performers and community members this past weekend to launch the Museum’s Fijian Collection project to coincide with Fijian language week. 

The Fijian community was welcomed to Auckland Museum on Saturday 1 October to celebrate the launch of a unique project to focus research into the Museum’s internationally recognised Fijian Collection.

The project is part of The Pacific Collection Access Project, which is a three year programme to open up access to Pacific treasures, creating stronger connections with Auckland’s Pacific communities.

As part of the launch, Fijian leaders gifted the project an official Fijian name: ‘Nai Yau Vakaviti: Na Ka Marequiti’ (this means ‘Our Fijian Treasures: That are treasured’).

Tarisi Vunidilo, from Natokalau, Yawe and Kadavu, a Professional Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland says "involving our youths in this project is vital and to see many attending and participating in the cultural dancing and singing on Saturday was so inspiring.

"I look forward to working with our young people and our elders in capturing their stories to be included in our Nai Yau Vakaviti: Na Ka Mareqeti Museum Project", continues Tarisi.

The Fijian part of the project will involve working with over 1500 artifacts and is expected to run through until June 2017. The project will result in more information and images available online via the Museum’s online database, Collections Online

The Museum will be working closely with community 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.

Auckland Museum Director of Research and Collections, David Reeves, said that this was a very special milestone for the Museum and the years of groundwork to get to this point.

"We have been touched to see the involvement from our Pacific communities through this project, and we are really looking forward to welcoming our Fijian community to be part of this work.

"We are grateful to have been gifted a beautiful Fijian name for this project, a timely opportunity for us to celebrate the Fijian language this week."

The Fijian Collection is the second Pacific island nation to receive focus, following the successful programme of work that has begun for the Cook Islands collection.

Museum staff will now focus on engaging with local Fijian communities and will invite cultural knowledge holders to visit the Museum to share their insights and wisdom.

"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", says David. 

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, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawai’i, Kiribati, Niue, Pitcairn, Rapa Nui, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna.

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