Encounters is a multi-faceted research project. One output of the project will be two related exhibitions opening in 2015 at the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum.
The exhibition at the National Museum will feature the complex histories of some of the early objects in the British Museum's collection and their continuing significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
An Indigenous Advisory Committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts, chaired by Yawuru man Peter Yu, is advising the National Museum on the project.
Community consultations are central to the Encounters project. In the lead-up to the exhibitions, curatorial staff from the National Museum and the British Museum are working with more than 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia.
A fundamental part of the project is re-connecting the objects with the communities from which they originated. These objects were produced by the ancestors of the people living in these communities and retain great cultural significance.
We are sharing information about these objects and the histories of how they were acquired and displayed. Some were traded, others were gifts, some were taken from camps or after violent conflicts. For many objects there is limited documentation and we are continuing to research their histories.
In some communities, similar objects to those in the British Museum's collections are still being made. In other communities, the information about these old objects is helping contemporary artists and craftspeople to make new objects. We are acquiring a range of these contemporary objects to display in the exhibitions alongside the British Museum objects.