26 November 2015
Shield Collected by Captain Cook Among Objects on Show at National Museum
A Gweagal shield and two spears collected when Lieutenant James Cook first set foot in Botany Bay in 1770 are among the rare artefacts on display in a landmark exhibition, Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum, launched in Canberra today.
Encounters follows extensive engagement with the 27 communities from where the objects were first acquired. The exhibition explores Australia’s shared history and commemorates the enduring continuity of culture in Indigenous communities and was organised with the British Museum.
The National Museum is also today launching the companion exhibition, Unsettled: Stories Within, which features five contemporary Indigenous artists’ reflections on the British Museum’s collection.
Most of the 151 British Museum objects coming on loan for Encounters have not been seen in Australia since they were first acquired in contacts between early settlers and first Australians, across all states and territories, between 1770 and the 1930s. The diverse range of objects includes weapons, tools, baskets and artworks.
The exhibition also includes 138 contemporary Indigenous objects and artworks from the communities represented in the exhibition.
National Museum director, Mathew Trinca, said reconnecting Indigenous communities with this material is key to promoting greater understanding of our shared histories.
'Encounters is arguably the most important work the National Museum has ever undertaken and we thank the Indigenous communities from around Australia who have worked so closely with us on this project,' said Dr Trinca.
'We could not have done this without the wholehearted support of the British Museum and we commend them for embarking on this project,' said Dr Trinca.
Yawuru man and National Museum Council member and Indigenous Reference Group Chair, Peter Yu, said he hoped Encounters would become a portal for a greater exploration by all Australians of the contribution Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have made to national development - and their role as the oldest continuous living culture on the planet.
"Creating dialogue through this exhibition is critical in promoting a better understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians - this is not just about the First Peoples of this country but about all Australians’ history and future," he said.
'Projects like Encounters are also an important step towards forging equitable relationships between Australia’s First Peoples and museums,' said Mr Yu.
Minister for the Arts, Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield welcomed the collaboration between the National Museum and the British Museum.
'The significance of Encounters to our shared history will provide a rare opportunity to see these objects and items, some of which have not been seen in Australia since the 18th century,' Minister Fifield said.
'I commend the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum for their dedication and hard work over the past few years to work collaboratively to bring this important exhibition to Australia.'
Lissant Bolton, Keeper, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum said, ‘the "Encounters’"exhibition at the National Museum of Australia illustrates the benefits that flow from collaborative engagement between communities and museums. The British Museum works to share the collections it cares for as widely as possible across the world and partners with many source communities and other groups internationally. Loans like this are an essential part of the Museum’s role, allowing valuable dialogues to develop around loan objects and providing new perspectives through their display alongside objects at other institutions, such as the National Museum of Australia.’
Encounters includes two spears that date from the first encounter between Indigenous Australians and Lieutenant Cook, which are held by the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Along with the shield, these are three of only five Aboriginal objects understood to have come from that first encounter.
Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum, on show in Canberra: 27 November 2015 – 28 March 2016
For more information please contact Tracy Sutherland, (02) 6208 5338 / 0438 620 710 or firstname.lastname@example.org