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