Accepted Paper:

The implications of re-materialising taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments)  


Jennifer Cattermole (University of Otago)

Paper short abstract:

For Māori, taonga (treasures) have mauri (life force). So what kinds of value are ascribed to digital models and 3-D print replicas of taonga? What are the ethical implications involved? This paper addresses such questions in relation to taonga pūoro housed at the Otago Museum, New Zealand.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the process and implications of re-materialising museum artefacts. The 'agile objects' that are the focus of this discussion are seven taonga pūoro (traditional musical instruments of Māori, New Zealand's indigenous peoples) held at the Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand, and their 3-D digital models and prints. These taonga (treasures) were CT-scanned, and the scan data used to create 3-D models and prints as part of a project investigating their manufacture, materials and sound.

While there is no immediate use planned for the 3-D digital models, the physical prints are currently being used in the Otago Museum's education activities. Unlike the taonga themselves (which are currently housed in storage rather than on public display, are not permitted to be played, and can only be accessed if a formal request is approved), the prints can be handled without the need for safeguards - even played, providing an opportunity for experiential learning.

The taonga themselves each possess their own mauri (life force or essence); they are living entities. From a Māori standpoint, there are no boundaries between the past and the present, the tangible and the intangible, the physical and the spiritual. In light of these perspectives, how are the 3-D digital and print models of these taonga valued? What are the ethical considerations in play when taonga are de-materialised and re-materialised? What are the attendant risks and opportunities such 'agile objects' present in their various potential future applications? This paper seeks to address such questions.

Panel P025
Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization