The small publication titled Kambek: Reconnecting Collections is a collaboration between the research team and their partner organisation Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) and Queensland Museum (QM).
The Tok Pisin word kam bek translate into English as “to come back or return”, encapsulates the spirit of the artefacts returning to their country of origin around 100 years after their collection and removal to Queensland Museum.
The book comprises of first-hand stories and descriptions from museum staff in Brisbane and Port Moresby, former Trustees of the PNG National Museum and six from the PNG diaspora in Australia.
The event was an opportunity to reflect on the process of creating the book and the intentions behind it.
A senior academic member of the research project, Dr Robin Torrence, from the Australian Museum in Sydney, said the book was developed through discussions with NMAG staff and the Museum’s former trustees who were eager to have a book about the collections to make available to visiting public.
The MacGregor collection is the founding collections of the NMAG collected by William MacGregor when he was Lieutenant Governor of British New Guinea Territory between1884 and 1898.
NMAG Director, Dr Andrew Moutu, said MacGregor collected a total of 10,800 objects that became the Official British New Guinea Collection.
The collection of both cultural and natural specimens were collected from 178 different places in British New Guinea, (Oro to Western Provinces) were sent to Queensland Museum for temporary storage until such time when Papua New Guinea has its own Museum. The collection was repatriated in the 1980s and appear intermittently in museum exhibitions.
“We value the publication of such a small and beautiful book that provides an instant glimpse into the culture and thinking of our people,” said Dr Moutu.
“We are proud of the remarkable ingenuity demonstrated in the collections and can see striking continuities in contemporary Papua New Guinea. Rich descriptions and dazzling photographic work add a new layer of value to the historic collections. More of these books will be on sale at the Museum in the coming future.”
(NMAG Acting Chief Curator for Anthropology, Grace Vele, standing next to a group of kundu drums from the Official British New Guinea Collection with the book)