Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses


  • Emalani Case



In Refocusing Ethnographic Museums through Oceanic Lenses, Phillip Scorch encourages Kamalu de Preez and Marques Hanalei Marzan, two cultural advisors and specialists at Hawaiʻi’s Bishop Museum, to ‘have a conversation with a museum piece of their choice’ and to allow Scorch ‘to become part of it’ (50). Reading their reflections made me think about the many conversations I’ve had with pieces in museums and what they’ve said to me, what they’ve taught me, and what they’ve made me feel. In the Introduction to the book, I am quoted as calling an ʻahu ʻula and mahiole (a Hawaiian feathered cloak and helmet that belonged to one of our chiefs, Kalaniʻōpuʻu), a puʻuhonua, or a place of refuge and sanctuary (6). As a Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) living in Wellington, New Zealand, the feathered ‘things’ became my pieces of Hawaiʻi far away from home and therefore collectively transformed into a place of cultural safety for me, a place where I could converse with my ancestors in physical form, embodied in the intricate netting, knotting, and feather work.


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