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What is co-curation?

Photos by Jackie Pozza.

On October 6, the Pacific Anthropology team welcomed new President and CEO, Julian Siggers, and his wife, Marianne Lovink, to the Museum by introducing them to the wharenui, or meeting house, Ruatepupuke II.

Maori protocol dictates that newcomers and visitors to a community be welcomed on that community’s marae and introduced to their wharenui (see Keeping the marae warm). With the support of the descendants of those who carved this remarkable building in the nineteenth century at Tokomaru Bay in Aotearoa (New Zealand), FM staff follow this tradition. We at the museum have welcomed many visitors and staff over the years. Julian and Marianne were provided this informal welcome, rather than the traditional powhiri, in deference to social distancing guidelines.

Julian and Marianne learned about the history of this 140 year old wharenui, including the story of the relationship between Tokomaru Bay and the Museum, from Regenstein Collections Manager Chris Philipp and Regenstein Conservator JP Brown. In recent years, both Philipp and Brown have visited Ruatepupuke’s whanau in Aotearoa. Head of Anthropological Collections Jamie Kelly and exhibitions developer Ryan Schuessler also related their experiences in using the marae as part of the Museum's co-curation efforts with Chicago’s Philippines community and the Marshallese of Enid, Oklahoma. Chicago’s Aloha Center, American Indian Center, and others have also made use of the marae.

The team looks forward to further discussion with Julian, and working together towards our goal of forming lasting partnerships for shared governance with the descendant communities whom we serve.

Photos: (L-R) JP Brown, Julian Siggers, Chris Philipp, and Marianne Lovink meet in the wharenui. Photos by Jamie Kelly.

Over a year and a half ago, the Museum began a new partnership with five high school students from Enid, Oklahoma. The students, as representatives of the Marshallese community in Enid, visited the Museum, explored the collections, and worked with Museum staff to create their own exhibition. The Museum has since moved forward with the installation of the exhibition curated by the students- now opening on Friday, October 16.

An exciting part of this process included the deinstallation of the “A.B. Lewis Case,” which has remained unchanged since 1991, when it debuted in the exhibit “Pacific Spirits: Life, Death & the Supernatural.” The Regenstein team felt the removal of this case was important for two reasons:

With its deinstallation, the entire gallery can now be devoted to regularly-rotating, co-curated exhibits. We hope that, over time, more of the Museum’s space will be dedicated to this type of shared storytelling.

A.B. Lewis collected many of the items on display in the Regenstein Pacific Halls during the early 20th century. While his contributions, via the Joseph N. Field South Pacific Expedition (1909-1913) are noted elsewhere in the hall, we can now use the space to focus on voices and stories from the descendant community.

Below: Mount makers Janice Lim, Ann Prazer and Erin Bliss deinstall the 30-year-old A.B. Lewis case. Photos by Chris Philipp.

Below: Erin and Janice install the Marshall Islands material. Photos 1-2 by Chris Philipp; 3-7 by Jackie Pozza.

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