By Jacinta Koolmatrie, Master of Archaeology and Heritage Management student
My directed study, which involved cataloguing Barngarla artefacts and archival information, has officially come to an end. Initially I wanted to give someone the same feeling that I received when I found my Poppa’s boomerang on display. Unfortunately, none of the Barngarla artefacts said who made them. In fact, only one stated that it is a Barngarla object, while the others only said they were collected from the Barngarla region. Amongst the collection were spears, a boomerang, a shield, clubs, carvings, food, ochre samples, ornaments and stone tools. This range of artefacts is great, as it was not limited to one or two types
Although it may seem to be a small task, the project has a flow on effect that can lead to cataloguing Barngarla artefacts from other museums in Australia and possibly the world. Not only is that possible, but it can also make viewing these artefacts more accessible for all members of that Indigenous community. On the 18th of July I was able to meet with two members of the Barngarla community and show them the artefacts that I have included in my report. Evelyn Walker (my main contact and Chairperson of the Barngarla Native Title Holders Aboriginal Corporation) and Jayden Richards are both descendants of Susie Glennie, the woman whom I discussed in my previous blog post. It was great to finally show them what I had worked on throughout the semester. We discussed the possibility of exhibitions of the collection and they left knowing that Barngarla people are welcome to view the collection in the future. Although my part in the project has finished, it has created a closer relationship between Barngarla people and museums. This is something that I believe should be pursued both by museums and Indigenous people.
Throughout the semester this project has made me think more deeply about the position that the museum holds and what it means to be an Indigenous person who would one day like to work within one. Museums should be about celebrating different cultures and showing that Indigenous people are not all the same and that we are a diverse group of people who have different cultures. If more collection catalogues are created they will be able to show this diversity. As an Indigenous person I would want to make sure that more Indigenous people are able to take hold of their heritage and have a say in how it is presented. My hope for the future would be for more students to take up the opportunity of doing a directed study like this, but more specifically for more Indigenous people to feel comfortable with contacting the museum and creating their own catalogues of artefacts from their region.
Evelyn has also commented on the project, stating that recording objects is vital to preserving their ancestry. Museums and people who have private collections can assist with this by letting Barngarla people know what they have. This is what Evelyn hopes to see happen in the future, and she has been fortunate enough to receive some information about Barngarla-related heritage in the Port Lincoln region. With more information on objects and Barngarla people, Evelyn aims to revive artefact and craft making skills within the community.