Building an Indigenous Museum in the Vatican
Some Papuan Directions for Indigenising Museums
Debates around the significance, function and social value of museums are still challenging museum practices and models. In particular, the demands of “source communities” for self-representation and self-emancipation in the global community continue to call into question the role of the museum as a catalyst for promoting social change across cultures. In this paper, I push this question further by discussing the desires of a group of Roman Catholic woodcarvers in central Asmat (Indonesian Papua) to build a museum for exhibiting their carvings in the Vatican. To them, the Vatican is not only the sacred centre of Catholicism but also an integral part of their mythical world of ancestors. After a brief examination of their considerations, I attempt to put their ambitious museum idea into dialogue with current debates on “the postcolonial museum” to highlight how it can dictate new directions for indigenising museums.
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