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What is co-curation?

Last month, Regenstein Pacific team members Chris Philipp and Julia Kennedy traveled to lutruwita (Tasmania) carrying a necklace on loan to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Entitled taypani-milaythina tu: Return to Country, the exhibition featuring the necklace contains Tasmanian Aboriginal items held overseas, and art made in response to those items.

Pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) artist Andrew Gall created a companion piece to FM 272969 not as a replica, but as a reaction and placeholder for the necklace until it could return to Tasmania. The two necklaces were installed in one case, facing each other as though in conversation, at the suggestion of the artist.

The necklace, made sometime before 1834, is the only one of its kind known in the world. It was taken from Tasmania, then Van Diemen’s land, by collector John Merriman, from whose descendants it passed to British collector Alfred Fuller and on to the Field Museum in 1958. For the ensuing decades the vital importance of the necklace to the pakana went unrecognized, until 2016, when researcher Zoe Rimmer shared photos and information about it with TMAG and community members in Hobart.

Made of plant fiber cord and colored with ochre, the necklace looks unassuming at first glance. Still, Zoe and others noticed its similarity to necklaces depicted in portraits of Wurati, a leader, negotiator and important figure of Tasmanian Aboriginal resistance during the era of colonial genocide on the island. As the only known example of this type of necklace, it is important that the indigenous people of Tasmania be able to see and interact with the necklace while it is under the care of the Field Museum. For now, that means accessing it at TMAG; the Museum and community will revisit its disposition over the two year loan period.

While Chris and Julia’s trip lasted only a brief 4 days, they have made connections which they hope will lead to further collaboration between the Field and Australian Aboriginal communities. Conversations and research conducted during the visit have already enriched our understanding of the Tasmanian collection at the Museum.

The trip was bookended by a flurry of other activity for the Australian collections, including visits by Chicago’s Australian consul general Chris Elstoft; productive research visits by scholars Alistair Paterson and Jason Gibson, and ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s visit to the necklace at TMAG.

  1. Artist Andrew Gall holding the necklace in its travel mount, with TMAG First Peoples Art and Culture team leader Tony Brown

  2. Both necklaces installed in their case

  3. The necklace being arranged on its mount

  4. TMAG and FM teams and community members after welcoming the necklace

  5. L-R Andrew Gall, Theresa Sainty, Tony Brown, and Teangi Brown examining the necklace

  6. Plaster bust of Wurati (wearing a similar necklace) in the TMAG exhibit

  7. Hobart, seen from the top of kunanyi/Mt. Wellington

  8. Tasmania seen from the approaching flight

  9. Hobart, kunanyi, and rainbow

The weekend of July 15th, 2022 marked the 8th Annual National Gathering of American Indian Veterans in Wheaton, IL. This event welcomes all veterans, families, and members of the public, as well as visitors from across the country.

As part of the festivities, Native American veterans and other guests were invited onto the Field’s marae in a powhiri, or welcome ceremony, led by visiting Maori community members. Speakers and musicians representing several North American and Pacific Islander groups took part in the ceremony, which was attended by nearly 100 guests.

The marae continues to be a place of gathering and cultural exchange for both visitors and residents of Chicago; veterans were previously honored there as part of 2019’s D-Day Warriors exhibition, and at last year’s iteration of the National Gathering powhiri.

Photos by JP Brown

On Friday, 23 March 2007, The Right Honorable Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, came to the marae of Ruatepupuke II at The Field Museum.

That Monday, prior to her arrival in Chicago—and following several years of quiet negotiation by Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington—the Museum's Board of Trustees had approved the repatriation of the remains of fourteen Maori individuals to New Zealand.

The Field Museum acquired these koiwi (bones) from a New York scientific supply company in the late 19th century; it was not known how they came to be in the United States, or where and how they had been obtained in New Zealand.

The first public announcement of the Board's decision was made formally to the Prime Minister by Dr. John Edward Terrell, Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, and Mr. Joseph Brennan, then the Museum's Legal Counsel. They were supported on the marae by Christopher J. Philipp, Regenstein Pacific Collections Manager, and Désirée Wisse, then Regenstein Pacific Conservator.

Later that year, Dr. Terrell and A. Watson Armour III Curator Robert Martin traveled to New Zealand to participate in the official repatriation of the Maori ancestral remains held by The Field Museum. John and Bob were accompanied by a delegation of seven representatives from the The American Indian Center in Chicago, who have developed a special relationship with Ruatepupuke II at The Field Museum.

This was the first repatriation of Maori ancestral remains from a mainland museum in the US. A moving ceremony took place at The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, on Te Papa’s stunning, cooperative-built modern marae.

The audio used in the making of this film originally aired on "The World" (a co-production of the BBC, PRI, and WGHB Boston) on 7 September 2007. All images are © Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

These images are supplied for your personal study and research only. Any further reproduction of these images requires the permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. If your image has been used in this film and you would like it removed please contact John Terrell at the Field Museum.

View a transcript of the production here.

Thank you note from the NZ Embassy. Click to enlarge.

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