Biculturalism at New Zealand’s National Museum : An Ethnography of Te Papa book cover
1st Edition

Biculturalism at New Zealand’s National Museum
An Ethnography of Te Papa

ISBN 9780367731243
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
242 Pages

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Book Description

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has been celebrated as an international leader for its bicultural concept and partnership with Māori in all aspects of the museum, but how does this relationship with the indigenous partner work in practice? Biculturalism at New Zealand’s National Museum reveals the challenges, benefits and politics of implementing a bicultural framework in everyday museum practice. Providing an analysis of the voices of museum employees, the book reflects their multifaceted understandings of biculturalism and collaboration.

Based on a year of intensive fieldwork behind the scenes at New Zealand’s national museum and drawing on 68 interviews and participant observations with 18 different teams across the organisation, this book examines the interactions and cultural clashes between Māori and non-Māori museum professionals in their day-to-day work. Documenting and analysing contemporary museum practices, this account explores how biculturalism is enacted, negotiated, practised and envisioned on different stages within the complex social institution that is the museum. Lessons learnt from Te Papa will be valuable for other museums, NGOs, the public service and organisations facing similar issues around the world.

Biculturalism at New Zealand’s National Museum addresses a gap in the literature on biculturalism and reaffirms the importance of ethnography to the anthropological enterprise and museum studies research. As such, it will be essential reading for academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the fields of cultural anthropology, museum anthropology, museum studies, and Māori studies or indigenous studies. It should also be of great interest to museum professionals.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Background and Historical Context

1. Establishing Biculturalism: Constructing Te Papa and Implementing Biculturalism

2. Interpreting Biculturalism: Theory and Staff Perceptions

3. Performing Biculturalism: Creating Te Marae and Conducting Pōwhiri (Māori welcome ceremonies)

4. Learning Biculturalism: Training Staff and Educating the Public

5. Enacting Biculturalism: Organisational Culture

6. Tackling Biculturalism: Cultural Clashes around Human Remains and Taonga Māori

7. Grasping Biculturalism: Knowledge Transfer and Staff Transformation

8. Conclusion: The Future of Biculturalism


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Tanja Schubert-McArthur holds a Master's degree from Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen in Germany and completed her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She has been working as a Research Assistant, Tourguide and Events Supervisor at Te Papa for several years. She also works at National Library of New Zealand.