In this issue of the of the OAS Journal we are fortunate to have Dr Maia Nuku, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, chart the evolution of that institution over the last 50 years, particularly in the decisions taken that resulted in its present day collections of Pacific art. Through the actions of one man, Nelson Rockefeller, driven by his passion for non-Western cultures, the material arts of Africa, Oceania and ancient America became recognised as integral parts of the human artistic story. One wonders sometimes where the world would be without such inspirational figures. Dr Nuku’s paper, based on her wonderful presentation at this year’s OAS Forum, writes that not only have museums changed over time in what they collect but also how they relate to the objects in their collections and with the communities from where these objects originated. Inevitably this has been a political transition in the context of the ongoing process of de-colonisation. Objects that were completely separated from source communities are increasingly becoming more accessible to the ancestors of the people who made them, playing an important role in the cultural revival that is underway across the Pacific. The artefacts, from being almost prisoners in austere Western institutions, are now treated as honoured guests, who themselves take visitors as people from the Pacific seek them out and reconnect with them as important cultural icons. This in turn strengthens the hands of contemporary Pacific Islanders as they navigate the many challenges of contemporary existence. The times are a changing.
In this issue Pierre Laffont also reports on the successful Pacific Arts Association Symposium in Brisbane; Marina Garlick reviews the publication Oceania, that accompanied the superb eponymous exhibition recently in London and now in Paris, and we are teased by Dr Ian McNiven, who is to give the next OAS lecture on how the Torres Strait Islandsact as both a bridge and a barrier for cultural exchanges between Australia and New Guinea. The lecture will be at the Australian Museum on June 19 and is highly recommended to all those able to attend.