Walking the fine line

From Samoa with Love? at the Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich

in Curatopia
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This chapter explores the conceptual planning, organisation and reception of the exhibition From Samoa with Love? Samoan Travellers in Germany, 1895–1911 at the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich, 2014. It does so by taking into consideration competing obligations among the Samoan descendants and community, the responses of mainstream museum visitors in Munich with no prior knowledge of fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) and the expectations of the Bavarian government, who strictly controlled costs but wanted large audiences. Museums are not as free to create, or as powerful, as is often assumed by outsiders and critics. Being the curator responsible for this exhibition meant juggling positions, demands and interests in a setting affected by Samoan perspectives and claims, German audiences’ pre-knowledge and viewing habits, structural constraints imposed by the Bavarian museum administration system, and even the Foreign Office and diplomatic agendas. For the curator, trying to meet these contradictory demands and reconciling them with her own academic and ethical ideas of curatorship indeed meant walking a fine line.

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