Accepted paper:

Documenting Forest Resources as Material Culture in Solomon Islands


Ben Burt (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

Reviewing a 1990s project to document local knowledge of forest resources in Solomon Islands, its benefits for classifying museum collections and the usefulness of reducing indigenous ecological knowledge to writing.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1990s, responding to a developing interest in traditional ecological knowledge, I led a project to document the knowledge of the Kwara'ae people of Malaita in Solomon Islands about the resources that their forested lands provided for their traditional way of life. The intention was to describe Kwara'ae culture in its own terms, in Kwara'ae language with an English translation, for Kwara'ae, Solomon Islands and academic readers, and a book, Our Forest of Kwara'ae, was published by the British Museum in 2001. One benefit of the project was to improve the description and classification of Solomon Islands artefacts in the British Museum's collections and publications to reflect indigenous categories and understandings of plant materials. But the research raised questions about reducing indigenous botanical knowledge to writing and its usefulness to source communities. This paper will revisit these issues.

panel AM02
Reactivating Ethnobotanical Collections in the Anthropology Museum