Return to Baguia

A digital copy of the doctoral dissertation Return to Baguia: An Ethnographic Museum Collection on the Edge of Living Memory by Joanna Barrkman can be found here:

Barrkman’s research explores the significance of ethnographic museum collections for source communities in the current era, particularly when collections sit on the edge of living memory. Return to Baguia documents the formation of the Baguia Collection by Dr Alfred Bühler and then explores an initial phase of engagement between the residents of Baguia and the Collection during 2014.

As Barrkman explains, the responses of the Baguia residents to viewing digital images of the Collection raises issues pertinent to contemporary museological practice. Their responses also have implications for the use of appropriate processes by museums in collaborating with source communities. The research findings supports the flexible, pro-technological access and digital return of museum collections to source communities, yet considers the inherent limitations and complexities in this methodology.

Barrkman argues that the Baguia Collection has shared heritage values and that the potential for digital access arrangements will enhance the restitution of cultural knowledge and its subsequent intergenerational transmission in Baguia while also providing the MKB with more updated and relevant information about the Collection. Her project demonstrates that access to digital images of the Collection has enabled residents of Baguia to assert their cultural authority over the Collection, and that with further digital access they would activate the Collection to meet their own development agendas.

By animating the Collection through ‘acts of transfer’ the Baguia community illustrated the potential for the Collection to become a source of metacultural production that reinvigorates contemporary Makasae identity and develops Makasae social and cultural capital, while ultimately enhancing their capacity to aspire.

Dr Joanna Barrkman is a graduate of the Centre of Asia and Pacific, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University.