Sharing Knowledge

Museums around the world are working on sharing information about their collections with the communities from which they originally came. One way of doing this is to publish catalogues which are accessible to all communities.

Great Barrier Reef Map

Great Barrier Reef Map
Creator: Design Unit © Australian Museum

In 1993, Kate Khan of the Australian Museum began a project to publish a catalogue, in four volumes, of artefacts collected by Dr Walter E Roth. Roth was a Queensland doctor and was government Protector of Aborigines from 1898 until 1905. In his travels through North Queensland and Cape York, Roth acquired many Aboriginal artefacts, took many photos and gathered cultural information, all of which he recorded meticulously. In 1905 he sold his collection to the Australian Museum.

Kate Khan's catalogue, the fourth volume of which was published in 2004, is specifically for distribution among the Aboriginal communities of North Queensland and Cape York.

Thelma Coconut, an elder of the Napranum community of the Weipa region in North Queensland, read the first two parts of the catalogue and discovered that Roth had collected objects from her country. In 2002, she received a professional development internship from Arts Queensland to work at the Australian Museum. For seven weeks she worked with Barrina South, Aboriginal Collections Officer, studying the objects in the Roth collection and documenting her knowledge of the language and cultural practices of the Napranum people as they related to the collection.

Dr. Kate Khan
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