The Virtual Museum of the Pacific – developed by the Australian Museum, in collaboration with the University of Wollongong – is now showcasing 400 cultural items from the museum's world-renowned Pacific Collection to a global audience.
Community engagement is the motivation behind a new pilot website unlocking the doors to some of the 60,000 cultural items in the Australian Museum’s world-renowned Pacific Collection.
The Virtual Museum of the Pacific – developed by the Australian Museum, in collaboration with the University of Wollongong - is now showcasing 400 of these artefacts to a global audience.
The Australian Museum’s Head, Cultural Heritage & Science Initiatives Branch, Vinod Daniel, said the pilot website was created by the University of Wollongong - with funding from an Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant - to further collaboration with Pacific Island communities and to provide them with increased access to the museum’s Pacific collection.
“Given that the Australian Museum’s Pacific collection features 60,000 cultural objects from over 29 diverse Pacific nations, the task to understand more about the objects and the communities from which they came is an on-going challenge,” said Mr Daniel.
“We are constantly looking at new ways of strengthening our relationships with community members and providing them with access to the collections - not only through existing methods such as exhibitions, publications and further research on our collections but also via new technologies and platforms such as social media websites.”
The trial website features high-quality images and data from historical museum records while the social media component empowers Pacific Island community members and researchers to discuss the objects and add their own knowledge by uploading stories, images and videos.
Mr Daniel said providing access to museum collections on the internet redefines the traditional roles of museum curators and audiences and enables large historic collections – unable to be put on physical display – to be placed on virtual exhibition online.
“While curators become facilitators, audiences become involved in the processes of manifestation and negotiation of their own cultural heritage,” he said.
“We are encouraging the Pacific communities who created these artefacts all those years ago –and their considerable diaspora living throughout Australia – to get involved in and take a kind of virtual ownership of the collection to ‘future proof’ access for generations to come.”
Pacific community members are encouraged to visit the trial website which is now available at http://epoc.cs.uow.edu.au/vmp. The website is part of an on-going three year project that will see additional objects added and new technologies - such as improved internet access - explored to encourage on-going and widespread community engagement.
The Virtual Museum of the Pacific is a collaborative project between the Australian Museum and the University of Wollongong.