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What is co-curation?

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

Via the Field Museum Facebook:

“Recently the Māori All Blacks flew in from New Zealand for Rugby Day at Soldier Field. Before the big game, they performed a private jersey presentation ceremony in Ruatepupuke, the Māori Meeting House on the Museum's second floor. As part of the preparation for the visit Luke Crawford, Kaumātua Māori (Māori Cultural Advisor) for the All Blacks, performed karakia—a ceremony to help maintain the spiritual value of the house—and gave a gift of paua abalone shells for use in the continued conservation of the distinctive eyes on the carved ancestor panels.

Our staff are honored to make frequent visits to New Zealand to consult with Māori elders and community advisers with whom the Field co-manages the house—one of only three such Māori meeting houses outside of New Zealand.”

Luke Crawford and members of the Maori All Blacks sing on the marae

Photo © JP Brown
Photo © JP Brown

In November of 2018, Dr. John Terrell was a featured panel speaker at a conference for Taiwan’s National Museum of History. The panel, entitled “Professional Exhibition and Interpretation in Museums,” was part of the inaugural conference of the NMH’s new Museum of Archaeology, which opens to the public later this year.

Dr. Terrell discussed the ways in which museum staff must rethink curation of its collections, including co-curation and digital access. The presentation touched on the difficult topic of museums’ colonial origins, and colonial ideas that still abound today.

Guest speakers also had the opportunity to make their own barkcloth using Taiwanese techniques; while barkcloth is widely used across the Pacific today, it is unknown whether the ancient Taiwanese practiced the craft or learned it more recently.

Practitioners of barkcloth making from Dulan, Taiwan teach conference-goers how to make barkcloth starting from raw paper mulberry wood.

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