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Museums and the future of curatorship

What is the future of curatorial practice? How can the relationships between Indigenous people in the Pacific, collections in Euro-American institutions and curatorial knowledge in museums globally be (re)conceptualised in reciprocal and symmetrical ways? Is there an ideal model, a ‘curatopia’, whether in the form of a utopia or dystopia, which can enable the reinvention of ethnographic museums and address their difficult colonial legacies? This volume addresses these questions by considering the current state of the play in curatorial practice, reviewing the different models and approaches operating in different museums, galleries and cultural organisations around the world, and debating the emerging concerns, challenges and opportunities. The subject areas range over native and tribal cultures, anthropology, art, history, migration and settler culture, among others. Topics covered include: contemporary curatorial theory, new museum trends, models and paradigms, the state of research and scholarship, the impact of new media and current issues such as curatorial leadership, collecting and collection access and use, exhibition development and community engagement. The volume is international in scope and covers three broad regions – Europe, North America and the Pacific. The contributors are leading and emerging scholars and practitioners in their respective fields, all of whom have worked in and with universities and museums, and are therefore perfectly placed to reshape the dialogue between academia and the professional museum world.

Learning from Māori curatorship pastand present
Conal McCarthy, Arapata Hakiwai and Philipp Schorch

This volume argues that curatorship may be ‘recalled’ and remade through collaborative relationships with communities leading to experiments in curatorial theory and practice. What can museums of ethnography in the Americas and Europe learn from the experience of nations where distinctive forms of Indigenous museology are emerging and reshaping the conventions of curatorial practice? In addressing this question, this chapter draws on research by the authors, including interviews with Māori curators, museum professionals, academics and community leaders throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring connections with the wider Pacific and the world. In doing so, it focuses on the ‘figure of the kaitiaki’, the Māori ‘guardian’, as a particular local development of the ‘figure of the curator’. It concludes that museums across the world can learn from Pacific experiments and become active agents in shaping cultural revival and future potentialities on a global scale.

in Curatopia
Curatorial bodies, encounters and relations
Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu, Moana Nepia and Philipp Schorch

Throughout the Pacific, interpersonal encounters are characterised by a deep level of physical intimacy and engagement – from the honi/hongi, the face-to-face greeting, to the ha‘a/haka wero, acts of challenge that also serve as a celebratory acknowledgement of ancestral presences. In these physical exchanges, relationships are built, tended and tested through an embodied confirmation of values, practices and ethics. For museums holding Pacific collections, the importance of relationships, and their physicality, persists. The increasing acknowledgement of, and interaction with, communities of origin, whose works reside in museums throughout the world, is thereby not a new practice but the current stage of a continuum of relations that have ebbed and flowed over centuries. This chapter involves the interdisciplinary work of three scholars whose research, interests and collaborations coalesce around concepts of indigenous curatorial practice. Kahanu focuses on Bishop Museum’s E Kū ana ka paia exhibition (2010), which featured important Hawaiian temple images loaned from the British Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, as well as the Nā hulu ali‘i exhibition which gathered Hawaiian featherwork from around the world (2015/2016). She highlights how the Hawaiian practice of he alo ā he alo in cross-cultural contexts facilitated these exhibitions, thereby ultimately enabling extensive community engagement. Nepia discusses two recent programmes at the University of Hawai‘i, ARTspeak and the Binding and Looping: Transfer of Presence in Contemporary Pacific Art exhibition, as a means of examining how Pacific Island artists articulate contemporary creative practice, particularly as it relates to physical and bodily encounters. Schorch concludes the volume with a coda which historicises Curatopia and its underpinning relations and engagements he alo ā he alo / kanohi ki te kanohi / face to face.

in Curatopia