PacificAnthropology.org is the home of the Field Museum's Regenstein Pacific team.

What is co-curation?

Archaeology as a modern science only reached the South Pacific in the wake of World War II. Before then, everyone's understanding of Pacific prehistory was grounded on misleading European ideas about race and alleged racial migrations "out of Asia."  Recently, human molecular geneticists have begun to turn their gaze toward Oceania and its inhabitants. The results published so far leave a great deal to be desired--as Regenstein Curator John Terrell surveyed last year in Scientific American. In April 2019, Antony Funnell at the Australian Broadcasting Company interviewed Terrell about the use and misuse of human genetics. In particular, Funnell asked him to explain why he feels it isn't necessarily a wise idea to send off a sample of your spit to a commercial genetics laboratory in hopes of discovering the secrets allegedly hidden in your DNA about your personal ancestry and future prospects for a good, healthy life. Listen to the program here.


Native American members of the armed forces carry their respective flags

The marae is currently home to the new exhibition “D-Day Warriors: Native Americans in the Military.” Joe Podlasek, of Schaumburg, Illinois’ Trickster Art Gallery, worked with FM to honor Native American soldiers with music and dance. The event brought together many of the individuals and communities who use and care for the marae. Those new to Chicago’s marae were received with a hongi, a traditional Maori greeting (pictured below. Photos © Michelle Kuo, 2019.)



Visitors can see the exhibit until February 2020.


© Michelle Kuo
An honoree and visitor of the event greet each other with a hongi. Photo by Michelle Kuo.

© Michelle Kuo
An honoree and visitor of the event greet each other with a hongi. Photo by Michelle Kuo.

In late March, the Museum and several community partners welcomed our newest co-curators: five Marshallese-American high school students from Enid, Oklahoma. The students will help us produce a small Marshall Islands exhibition in our Pacific co-curation gallery, which will be installed and open to the public in 2020.


Before the students began their busy two-day introduction to the museum world and exhibits development, a powhiri, or formal welcoming ceremony, was held on the marae. Museum staff, Native American community partners, Philippines co-curators and many of Chicago’s Pacific community were in attendance to greet the students.


Speakers included Conrad White, representing the Maori of Tokomaru Bay; Lanialoha Lee, representing Chicago’s Pacific Islander community; Heather Miller of Chicago’s American Indian Center; and Lani Chan, a long time member of the Museum’s Filipino-American co-curation team. Speaking on behalf of Enid atoll were students John Sibok and Ezola Hong, Enid High School Assistant Principal Cindy Black, and Enid Marshallese community leader Terry Mote.


Following the ceremony and a tour of the current Pacific Halls, exhibition developers Ryan Schuessler and Monisa Ahmed guided the students in brainstorming sessions and activities to help identify goals and themes for the exhibition. The guests were also able to view the ~150 piece Marshallese collection in storage, sparking inspiration for the content of the show.


In April, Regenstein Pacific collections manager Chris Philipp will accompany the exhibits team back to Enid, where the group will continue to plan the exhibit, select objects, and hear feedback and ideas from the larger community. Philipp hopes the visit will represent a start of a deeper relationship between the Museum and the Marshallese people, both in the US and in the islands.


Gallery: Powhiri. All photos © John Weinstein 2019