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Friday, June 1 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Material Transfers & Translations) Museum Preservation and Contact Zones: The Politics of Stewardship and the Physical/Digital Repatriation of Te Hau Ki Turanga

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This presentation adopts a critical approach to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa’s historic representation and preservation of the Maori meetinghouse Te Hau Ki Turanga (THKT). I will unravel the complex relations among colonization, modernity, and nationhood to expose a history of the object as social agent, mediating community relations the way people do. In this presentation, I argue that changes in the representation and care of THKT can be framed as part of a retelling of New Zealand’s museum history. In the case of THKT, it was determined by the Waitangi Tribunal in 2001 that the meetinghouse was in fact the property of the Rongowhakaata iwi and was illegally taken without consent from the tribe in the 1880s. This decision has brought to the forefront both a three-year restoration and exhibition by Rongowhakaata artists at the National Museum of New Zealand, as well as a 2017 vote on whether or not the meetinghouse will be physically repatriated to its original location on the North East coast of New Zealand or gifted to the National Museum. As part of the conservation documentation of the meetinghouse as it stands now, before restoration and possible repatriation, extensive three-dimensional digital capture took place. In addition, several carvings from the meetinghouse have been identified in the National Museum Australia, Canberra, and the British Museum, UK collections. While it is unlikely they will ever be successfully repatriated along with the meetinghouse, Rongowhakaata are seeking to “digitally repatriate” 3D data of these carvings and “re-align” the ancestor carvings that tell the correct whakapapa or genealogy history through an interactive visualization during the three-year restoration project at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa.

avatar for Brinker Ferguson

Brinker Ferguson

PhD Candidate, University of California Santa Cruz
My interest in museums, digital media, and education stems from a need to understand how digital repositories and interactive media can connect disparate groups and foster connection and creativity on a whole. My passion is working with museum conservators to tell their (remarkab... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm

Attendees (14)