Milne Bay museum opens
Amuseum dedicated to the culture of Milne Bay Province, in Papua New Guinea’s idyllic southeast, has opened in Alotau. The Massim Museum and Cultural Centre is only the fifth museum in PNG and showcases artefacts, carvings, weavings, contemporary paintings, photographs and curios.
Among the exhibits are carvings by Mutuaga, one of the first named and recognised Papua New Guinean carvers, who was befriended by missionaries in the 1890s.
Contemporary carvings are also on display, including some from the Kiriwina region, which are accompanied by storyboards that explain their meanings and legends.
Many of the exhibits have been donated by locals.
The museum’s foundation director and executive curator, Joan Winter, says: “There is the developing understanding that objects will be much safer in the museum than in some villages and houses in Alotau, so collecting them has not been too difficult as people come to show us what they have stored away. They always bring stories about their precious cultural heritage.”
However, some of Mutuaga’s carvings have come from an auction house in London.
“They were taken to London in the late 1890s and then turned up at auction in the 1990s,” Winter says. “Chris Abel, the grandson of the original missionary, Charles Abel, was alerted by a colleague in London and he was able to purchase them at the auction.
“There are more valuable and beautiful objects from Milne Bay province in museums around the world,” Winter says. “We hope to be able to repatriate some of these. There is an international market, but prices are often too high for the likes of this museum, so donor supporters are needed.”
The Massim Cultural Foundation was set up in the 1990s to create the museum. The impetus to establish the museum came after the very successful Malinowski Legacy conference in 2015, staged in Alotau to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the stay of the famous early anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. It was made possible by a grant from the national government.
The museum is at the Wanigili Centre, a building said to be the largest wooden structure in the southwest Pacific. It is co-resident with a cafe, conference venue, accommodation and a tour company.
The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm, or by appointment. It’s PGK25 for adults, PGK10 for children and PGK65 for families.
To get in touch with the museum, phone +675 7933 1009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ■