Author:Louise Hamby (Australian National University)
Paper short abstract:
The rediscovery of Indigenous Australian cultural objects collected before 1948 by Ronald and Catherine Berndt in a Flour Bin will be the focus of changing values over time.
Paper long abstract:
When new discoveries are made in the anthropological world they are often marked with great excitement such as King Tutankhamun's tomb. Within Australia and in the museum anthropological world intriguing discoveries are still made that make the anthropologist's heart sing. One example was the discovery of a tin trunk belonging to Ursula McConnel, discovered and brought to the attention of the South Australian Museum in 2006. It contained a trove of photographs, notes and letters. The most recent discovery in 2016 with analogies to the tin trunk is the Flour Bin in Perth, belonging to the anthropologist Ronald and Catherine Berndt.
This large metal bin and its contents has had changing values since its original purpose in Arnhem Land to hold flour to be sold to the community of Yirrkala. The newly discovered Flour Bin with its diverse collection of items from the desert and Arnhem Land is like a Pandora's box. Curiosity was the impetus to open the classical Pandora's Box as well as the Flour Bin. The flour bin came into the possession of the Berndts' on one of their trips to Yirrkala and was subsequently used to transport larger carved sculptures back to Perth. At some point after its arrival to Perth it was repacked with over 100 objects concealed by a deep layer of children's manuscripts. The investigation of items will hopefully reverse any ill effects from the Pandora syndrome and will bring about a new set of values for the old material.
Collections as Currency? Objects, Exchange, Values and Institutions