Working closely with those connected to the collections
In the last three decades, RAMM has made connections to communities who are historically connected to Exeter and Devon. Such work shouldn’t be seen as one-off events, but rather initial steps to maintain relationships between peoples whose shared histories are often sensitive, difficult and painful.
By exploring our donor histories and collections, and accepting our shared past, we are capable of creating positive futures for ourselves. They are relationships we are keen to maintain for everyone’s benefit. However, none of this work would not have been possible without the hard work of all those involved, including government departments, and the provision of funding.
Here are some examples of this work which were held in Exeter;
1. The return of Truganini-associated shell jewellery to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Hobart. The discussions which led to the return of this material took several years and was completed on the 7 November 1997.
2. The carving of Ilchinik in 6 – 24 June 1998 celebrated the historic connections between the Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island, Canada and the people of Exeter.
3. The return of remains to both Australian Aboriginal and Maori communities in 2005-6, and again in 2008.
4. Delegation visit to RAMM in 2013 to access the Blackfoot collections held there. This includes the ceremonial regalia once owned by Chief Crowfoot, which was obtained by Cecil Denny who was present at the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877. This regalia had not been seen by the Blackfoot for 130 years.
5. Players from the Tonga Rugby Team, and their families, visit RAMM during the Rugby World Cup in September 2015. This connection led to RAMM loaning one of the Captain Cook-acquired war clubs to the team the following week for the presentation of their jerseys prior to their game against Namibia. It is believed this visit inspired the team to win that game.
Okay, this is simple form of engagement, however, such a meeting sets up the possibility for future encounters. Who is to say that the Tongan players won’t return to Exeter with their families? Actually, it was during this encounter with the rugby team that RAMM met film-maker Amanda Whittington. Amanda had been commissioned by Fabian’s Films to make a film pertaining to the environment, the culture and identity of the Tongan rugby team. Her film was called Tongan Threads, and not only was RAMM invited to participate but it was through this film that the RAMM curator met another Tongan resident, Andre Ahokovi.
6. The redressing of the Museum’s carved Ganesh was done in close consultation with the city’s Hindu Cultural Centre in September 2018. Here, members of the Centre advised the Museum on how to appropriately display Ganesh. In this way it turned a straight forward display into a community space for celebration and prayer. Activities like this strengthens the relationship between a community and the institution.