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Auckland Museum Releases Te Awe On Film – A Mini Documentary Series About The Museum’s Taonga Māori

Rangi Te Kanawa, Christina Wirihana and Awhina Tamarapa viewing kete and stability of packaging.

Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum has produced a four-part mini documentary series focussing on the mahi behind its ground-breaking, multi-year Te Awe project.

Since 2013, a Museum team have led Te Awe, a Collections Readiness project designed to enrich, conserve and improve the care of the Museum’s taonga Māori. Embedded in Mātauranga Māori, the Museum used the expertise of both internal and external Māori specialists to help improve the collective knowledge of the precious taonga within its care.

In exploring the textiles and items woven from plant materials in the Museum’s collection, and as part of a Mātauranga Māori approach, the Museum partnered with the Taumata Māreikura, a group made up of some of Aotearoa’s most skilled and experienced weavers.

The final phase of this project focussing on more than 5,000 textiles in collaboration with the Taumata Māreikura concluded in 2019 and has been recorded and produced in a four-part miniseries.

Auckland Museum Curator Māori, Chanel Clarke says it’s been inspiring to build engagement with communities and iwi through the Te Awe project.

“Through this mahi we’ve held two-way conversations to uphold the mana of the taonga, while improving care practises and making taonga more accessible,” she says.

As customary practitioners, the Taumata Māreikura have a wealth of knowledge which enriched Auckland Museum’s databases and museum practices to provide greater contextual knowledge about the harvesting and preparation of weaving materials, weaving processes, use, and storage of taonga. This knowledge informed the Museum’s decisions through every step of this conservation and knowledge project and was captured on film.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Taumata Māreikura for sharing their knowledge and giving us invaluable advice. They’ve been instrumental to Te Awe and we are so pleased to be able to share their story and mahi through the four documentaries we have created,” says Chanel.

All four Te Awe mini documentaries can be viewed here.

The first phase of Te Awe (2013-2016), centred on the renewal of Auckland Museum's carving store, home to about 5,400 carved taonga. Amongst these are decorative carvings from whare, domestic and agricultural tools, tiki, pūtātara (conch trumpets), waka and hoe (canoes and paddles), and weaponry such as patu and taiaha.

Auckland Museum Director of Collections and Research, David Reeves says, “The Te Awe project has been a remarkable landmark project, a rare moment in the Museum’s history that we have been able to focus in such a detailed way on the care and cultural context of these taonga as a group.”

Over the course of the entire project, each collection item was processed by a specialist team of nine whose work included enriching collection database records; appropriately describing taonga using suitable terms, techniques and materials; correcting and standardising terminology and classifications; cleaning and stabilising taonga to prevent future deterioration; capturing high resolution images and improving storage to be safe and accessible.

As a result, the taonga Māori collection are now more visible and accessible to iwi, hāpu, whānau, museum staff, researchers, and the public.

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