Today’s #CouchCurator is Imelda Miller, Curator, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Indigenous Studies who is sharing some of her favourite exhibition at the museum.
Tell us a little bit about your area and why do you love working in this specific research area?
Queensland is home to two distinct First Nations Peoples; the Aboriginal People of the mainland continent of Australia and the Torres Strait Islander Peoples of the archipelago which lies between Australia and Melanesian islands of Papua New Guinea.
Two vibrant living cultures who have been living in this cultural landscape before time immemorial. The Queensland Museum holds significant objects from many of Australia’s First Nations cultures. These collections demonstrate a great depth of knowledge and connection between people and their surrounding environment.
Queensland’s nearest neighbours are in the Pacific region. The Pacific Island Collection connects Queensland to the Pacific. The objects in the collection demonstrate this connection, trade in and with the Pacific and the ongoing impact of colonialism. However, in more recent times narratives from Pacific Islanders and diaspora communities have been added to the collections.
My research area of interest is with the researching and documenting Australian South Sea Islander history and heritage with the Australian South Sea Islander community. Australian South Sea Islanders are descendants of 62,000 people, predominantly from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, who were transported to Queensland between 1863 and 1904 as labour for the Queensland sugar industry. This history is not well known in Australia.
What is your favourite thing about your role at the museum? Why?
It is a real privilege to work with objects from First Nations’ Peoples from across the Pacific. It is a special moment when I am able to connect objects with people from the related community. I enjoy creating new connections and access points for First Nations’ communities to engage and connect with the collection. For me it is important to make pathways for more under-represented stories and histories to be more visible to the wider community.
What is one of the most interesting facts you have discovered through working at the museum?
Repatriation – this has probably been the biggest and most impactful, emotional and personal work I have seen done and in at times in a small way honoured to be asked to assist or participate in handover ceremonies. The Indigenous staff who manage these programs who ensure ancestors can return to Country have a lot of cultural responsibility and are invaluable to the organisation.
What is your favourite gallery/exhibition at the museum (current or past) and why?
Awakening: Stories from the Torres Strait which showcase the vibrant living culture of Torres Strait Islanders both in the Islands and on mainland Australia. The exhibition was part of the festival, The Torres Strait Islands: A celebration in 2011 lead by the Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art in collaboration with State Library of Queensland, Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Arts Complex. The highlight was working with the Torres Strait Islander community and hosting the Urab dancers from Poruma Island for two weeks. The Urab Dancers performed cultural dancers and workshops sharing their culture with a wide audience.
Interested in learning more about Imelda? View her profile here.