TUMBY BAY - The South Australian Museum has had a long and fruitful association with the National Museum in Papua New Guinea and holds important collections related to PNG culture and history.
A story in PNG Attitude told of positions of the abolition of positions of curator of foreign ethnology and archaeology at the museum.
I am very surprised and concerned at such a short-sighted decision, particularly as it relates to the museum’s Pacific collections.
South Australia has had a long association with the Pacific region through companies such as the Adelaide Steamship Company, individuals involved in pre-independence administration, myself included, and missionaries, particularly Lutheran, teachers and various specialist researchers.
This association has yielded the diverse collections that the museum now holds.
The association is ongoing and of increasing geo-political importance, as highlighted in the recent federal government white paper on foreign policy.
Not least among these associations are personal contacts and working relationships established with curatorial and other equivalents in the Pacific region. These will now be at risk and will send a very negative message to the region.
I have had the privilege of working on several of the PNG collections as a volunteer and have used both the Pacific collection and the vast archaeological collections in the course of consultancy work, both in PNG and Australia. In many cases the collections have been indispensable to this work.
Through this process I have come to realise that a great deal of work on the collections still remains. In the case of the PNG collections this includes the need for conservation.
Without dedicated curators for both collections I fail to see how this can be achieved.
I am urging the museum to reconsider this decidedly retrograde step in its functions and responsibilities.