2024 Workshop in Berlin: A Review

Over the last two weeks we had the opportunity to welcome Tati Tati & Wadi Wadi Traditional Owner Uncle Brendan Kennedy, Waddi Waddi, Ngarrindjeri & Yorta Yorta master weaver Auntie Glenda Nicholls, Back to Country Curator Caine Muir (Museums Victoria), Research Programme Manager Tim Stranks (Museums Victoria) and Manager of First Nations Collections Dr. Mariko Smith (Australian Museum) in Berlin for a collaborative event with archive and collection visits, starting and ending the week with a smoking ceremony.

Half of our week was dedicated to the drawings of William Blandowski and Gerard Krefft, held in the MfN archive. The drawings are an important historical record of the animals they observed along the Murray River, whose biodiversity has since changed significantly. We discussed the important role of First Peoples as expert collectors on this expedition, who shared their knowledge of species diversity and habitats with Blandowski and Krefft, and who hunted the vast majority of the animals they recorded. Because of his linguistic expertise and important role in language revitalisation efforts, Uncle Brendan was particularly interested in the many River Nation language terms recorded on these drawings.

The second part of our delegation’s stay in Berlin focused on South East Australian cultural artifacts held by the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, some of which are on display at the Humboldt Forum. For Auntie Glenda and Uncle Brendan, as well as Caine and Mariko, the visit was an opportunity to reconnect with important cultural belongings that had been removed from Country by German collectors such as Blandowski and Krefft. Our discussions focused on issues of ownership, access, cultural security and the care for First Peoples cultural belongings in German collecting institutions

A special event during the research week was a workshop we held at the MfN, open to Berlin-based researchers and museum practitioners, focusing on living cultural practices related to cultural property held in Berlin: Uncle Brendan shared stories from his ongoing work in language revitalisation and Auntie Glenda spoke about the art of feather flower making in relation to her family history. Participants were invited to learn from Auntie Glenda how to make these flowers and relate to this history.

In a final session, Mariko presented on the Australian Museum’s practices for researching, caring for and exhibiting cultural objects in close collaboration with First Nations communities.

Lastly, we visited Berlin’s State Library to see the books that made up Blandowski’s personal library and the copy of his “Australien in 142 Abbildungen” that is kept there. Blandowski’s books contain notes taken during his travels, which may provide further context to the natural history work he and First Peoples collectors undertook together.

We are very grateful for being able to host our Australian guests and thankful for the support from the staff at the MfN, Ethnological Museum and the Staatsbibliothek. We are still processing all the lessons learned, which will inform the way we work, as well as our project’s recommendations to our partner institutions on future visits by First Peoples delegations wishing to engage with their cultural belongings in Berlin.

By Fiona Möhrle


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
fionamoehrle (June 7, 2024). 2024 Workshop in Berlin: A Review. Berlin's Australian Archive. Retrieved July 20, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/11s73


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