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What is co-curation?

Researchers Frederick Temo and Maramena Tuna visited the Maori collections as part of their research with Dr. Jennifer Cattermole (University of Otago.) They took detailed measurements and photos of a number of Maori musical instruments, or taonga pūoro, including carved wooden flutes and raupo fiber poi balls. Five flutes were temporarily removed from exhibit in the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific to enable closer examination.

Dr. Cattermole says, “I am one of the co-primary investigators (the other being Maui Solomon, chair of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust) on a research project titled ‘The origins and development of pre-European contact musical instruments in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Rēkohu (Chatham Islands).’ This study, which is being funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand (UOO-1622), aims to discover how the first southern Polynesian colonists of New Zealand and the Chathams – and their descendants – adapted tropical musical instruments and traditions to the new resources of a large, cool-seasonal continental island group. A key aspect of this mahi (work) involves documenting the taonga pūoro (traditional musical instruments) held in museum collections around the world. We aim to learn a lot about the instruments’ age and place of manufacture by examining their carving styles, manufacture techniques and materials, and (where available) provenance information.”

Four Maori flutes, pictured in their exhibit case in the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific.

The Museum’s photographer, John Weinstein, has completed a photographic survey of uli figures in FM collections. Researcher Jean-Philippe Beaulieu will publish these photos, along with photos of uli figures from other institutions around the world, in a late-2019 book. FM cares for 15 uli figures and the book will contain around 100. We hope that such a broad survey will help other researchers shed new light on the meaning and use of the figures.

FM 138793 © John Weinstein
FM 138793 © John Weinstein

In November of 2018, collections manager Chris Philipp and collections center director Christine Gianonni traveled to Aotearoa to visit the whanau, or extended family, of Ruatepupuke II. Discussions focused on the understanding, or Friendship Agreement, between our institution in Chicago and the community in Tokomaru Bay. The agreement will help articulate the commitment that the Museum and the community have made regarding the spiritual and physical care of the house.

Through this agreement, we hope to make some positive changes to the marae surrounding the house and enhance visitors’ understanding and experience of the space and its meaning. Following the whanau's recommendation, Museum staff will install a koha, or gift, given to the house, with label text written by the community in the coming months.

The Museum’s Filipino-American co-curators also sent a gift of Filipino cookbooks to the people of Tokomaru Bay. The Fil-Am community, among others, often use Ruatepupuke and the marae for community events; this gift was a small “thank you” to the family for the use of the space.

Christine and Chris at Te Araroa on the east coast of the North Island visiting Te-Waha-O-Rerekohu, the largest pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) in the world. It stands over 21 meters tall, is 40 meters in diameter at its widest point, and is believed to be well over 350 years old. Photo by Michael Weis

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