Ms Michelle Hippolite, Te Papa
s Kaihautū, today clarified the Museums guidelines for entry to its taonga Māori (Māori treasures) collection store - an area not accessible by the general public - in response to media reports today. One of these cultural considerations is that hapu (pregnant) or menstruating women (mate wahine) should consider entering the taonga Māori collection stores at another time.
Te Papa, as the kaitiaki (caretaker) of taonga Māori and a bicultural museum, embraces Māori tikanga and kawa when caring for those collections, Ms Hippolite said.
While we inform visitors to the collection stores of cultural considerations, no visitor would be stopped from continuing the tour if they wished to.
Te Papa worked with iwi and museum practitioners to develop protocols as to how the collections should be best cared for, including any cultural considerations that should be taken into account. Some taonga in the collection were used for special ceremonies or purposes and are sacred. Some have been used in warfare and funerary purpose and it is believed these objects retain the tapu associated with those activities. While Te Papa has been able to identify many of these taonga, there are many still for which the purpose and history is yet to be determined.
Ms Hippolite noted these kinds of cultural considerations for indigenous collections are becoming more common in collecting institutions internationally as museums begin to engage on a deeper level with their communities. Te Papa has advised visitors to the taonga Māori collection store of these guidelines since opening in 1998.
Our objective is to increase access to the collections and to continue to educate visitors regarding taonga and tikanga Māori associated with these collections, said Ms Hippolite.
The original complaint was in response to an invitation to Wellington regional museum staff to visit Te Papas storage areas that are not accessible by the general public.