A Visiting Researcher
Kirsty Gillespie works at the Universtiy of Queensland, Brisbane in Australia. For the past several years she has been working with the people of Lihir in rediscoverying their heritage. Lihir is a collection of small islands off the coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. Kirsty came to The Field Museum to look at our Lihir collection--which happens to be the largest in the world at around 60 objects. In this photograph I am recording what Kirsty has to say about the slit drum in front of us.
Before she arrived Kirsty requested pictures of each of our objects. Unfortunately, only some of the collection is photographed so we were only able to give her about 22 pictures. Kirsty took these pictures to the people of the Lihir, and asked them what they thought. There were many reactions to the varied objects. Some objects are common today and did not receive any special attention, while others were very sacred and rarely seen on the islands now. Kirsty shared all of this information with us during her visit which greatly enhanced the collection. Chris and I sat down with Kirsty and recorded what she, and the people of Lihir, had to say about each of the objects. For the objects that were not photographed, thus could not be seen by the Lihirians, Kirsty told us all she knew about them. These recorded sessions were very enlightening to be a part of, and a wonderful addition to the collection.
I had listened to similar recordings of objects purchased from A.W.F. Fuller in 1958. When the museum bought Fuller's Pacific collection someone went through each piece with him and recorded his thoughts on each one. I was listening to them to discovery which items in his collection were fakes. I could never have determined which artifacts were genuinely crafted by people of the Pacific, and which were made by a notorious Englishman named Mr. Little, but Fuller could. All I had to do was listen to the recordings, and Fuller told me which were fakes, and pointed out how he knew. When Kirsty came I was thrilled to be a part of that same process of recording. She added such a wealth of knowledge to our collections that I am sure that someday someone will listen to the recordings we made, and just as amazed and impressed as I was when I listened to the Fuller recordings.
To learn more about the Field Museum's Pacific collections please visit: https://sites.google.com/a/fieldmuseum.org/pacific-web/