Using the correct Sāmoan words is important: it’s a way of giving mana to the original creators and users of the taonga in our collection. As part of the ongoing Mapping the Sāmoa Collections project, Alexander Gordon has been tasked with making a glossary of Sāmoan vocabulary to document how words have changed over time. This will ensure that we are using the correct words to identify objects and make it much easier to search our catalogue.
Our Mapping the Sāmoa Collections project is a collaboration between Te Papa and the Bishop Museum in Hawai‘i and aims to enhance museum catalogue records and develop digital maps to contextualise taonga; enhancing their visibility and improving associated biographies, which then allows communities to utilise and share these resources, as well as support museum collections and knowledge. In 1930, Māori academic Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) published the ethnological book Samoan Material Culture, whilst working for the Bishop Museum based on his collections and fieldwork in Sāmoa in the 1920s. This connection and sustained collaboration is an opportunity to better understand the scope of the collections, oral histories, and indigenous knowledge systems which feature in this work. Research Assistant Alexander Gordon reflects on his first forays into the project.