Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Documenting, Researching and Conserving Pitcairn Island’s Material Culture


The Pacific Development and Conservation Trust of New Zealand have confirmed their most generous financial support for our project titled “Documenting, Researching and Conserving Pitcairn Island’s Material Culture”.   
The Pacific Development and Conservation Trust (PDCT) was established by Trust Deed by the New Zealand Government on 23 May 1989. The money for the Trust was received from the French Government in recognition of events surrounding the destruction of the Rainbow Warrior vessel in 1985.  Some of us might recall Norfolk Island’s connection to this incident with the vessel Ouvea arriving at Norfolk Island after smuggling explosives and other gear into New Zealand.  Thirty years has passed since the explosion of the Greenpeace vessel that tragically killed photographer Fernando Pereira, just earlier this month the French secret-service agent who led the attack made a public apology for his actions.
We at the Norfolk Island Museum are extremely pleased and excited to be provided with the financial resource to pursue this project. The aim of our project is to locate, document and provide conservation advice on Pitcairn Island’s material culture that is held with the communities on Norfolk Island and New Zealand.  
Kettle from the HMS Bounty
'Bounty' kettle
The permanent population on Pitcairn Island has been decreasing rapidly in recent times with the islanders migrating mainly to New Zealand.  The cultural material is leaving the island along with the people putting the provenance of the material at risk and creating potential for these objects to be lost.
This is a two stage project.  Stage 1 is to identify and document Pitcairn Island’s cultural material located in New Zealand and Norfolk Island while Stage 2 will focus on Pitcairn itself.  This initial successful grant is to facilitate stage 1.
The need for this project has been identified through feedback from Norfolk Islanders visiting Pitcairn Island, and also by our relationship with the Pitcairn Island Museum, whom have little resources to undertake this type of project themselves.
This project is fundamental to the protection of Pitcairn Island’s material culture.  No previous projects have provided for such a holistic approach to ensure material is identified and documented. This project also explicitly acknowledges that there is a distinct Pitcairner culture created through the historical circumstances of its 18th century establishment by Polynesian and European forebears:  its development on Pitcairn and later Norfolk Island. Today, these objects are an important part of this heritage.  

Cannon from the HMS Bounty
'Bounty' cannon
 Documentation of this material and associated knowledge about its cultural contexts, uses and significance will form a focus for future community interest in its material and cultural heritage, as well as provide a body of material for researchers – wherever they may reside, through physical and digital access.  And what a valuable gift this will be to the future generations of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islanders.
Individuals will be given the opportunity to tell their stories about life on Pitcairn Island.  They will have the opportunity to have these stories recorded for themselves and their families. Participants can showcase their material culture and connections to Pitcairn Island.  Basic conservation advice will be provided to ensure the objects remain in good condition, objects will be photographed and their history recorded.  This information will form a comprehensive database.   The Norfolk Island Museum will be the repository and access point of this data base of material, information and research enabling full and direct access to the community. 
The Pitcairn and Norfolk Island culture is intrinsically interwoven; this project is imperative to protect our shared heritage and culture.  It also offers a fantastic opportunity to develop research, learning and curatorial outcomes.  
We’ll keep you posted, in the meantime please contact us at the Norfolk Island Museum - your knowledge and ideas are important!

Janelle Blucher





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