Collections, Programs and Services
In 1997, The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington opened the "Pacific Voices" exhibition, a collaborative, community-informed exhibition of indigenous cultures that border the Pacific Rim. Although ambitious and curated with care, this exhibition was never updated or re-evaluated. In 2017, Nicola Andrews (Ngāti Paoa) a Māori MLIS candidate at the UW iSchool, noticed that the Maori portion of the exhibition had not aged well, and began to collaborate with the Burke in order to create more accurate descriptions of the taonga (treasures) on display. Utilizing Nga Upoku Tukutuku - the Maori subject headings used in cataloging standards of Aotearoa - provided a way to resist the colonialism and historical trauma of taonga descriptions used in the physical spaces and the catalog. This project was also a way for Nicola to focus her MLIS studies on Mātauranga Māori (Maori knowledge) - which is a requirement of MLIS accreditation and professional registration in Aotearoa.
This led to another project, working with a collection of Maori photographs (albumen prints, slides, negatives) spanning the 19th Century, which were donated to the Burke in 1953. These photographs had no identifying information in the museum database, and although digitized, were not published online. Nicola recognized that some of these photographs were of great Rangatira (chiefs), and that many may still have living descendants. This poster describes the search for Tupuna - the ancestors - and some of the challenges and collaborations that grew from trying to identify Maori print materials from the United States. It also describes the community of care and opportunity that can grow from responsible stewardship, and ways digital humanities can be utilized to honour these Tupuna. As the Burke museum prepares to open a new museum building in 2019, Nicola and the Burke staff seek ways to update the databases and digitally display the Tupuna photographs, while honouring ties to family and land which connect us all.