Mere pounamu (nephrite weapon), 1500-1820, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992. Te Papa

Taonga Database Hui 

Presenters at a one-day, national hui of taonga database researchers explained in detail the purpose, depth and variability of taonga database projects that have already been undertaken by iwi and with support from National Services Te Paerangi.  Participants representing at least twenty iwi attended the one-day national hui held at Te Papa on Saturday 2 December, 2006.

Facilitated and led by Rhonda Paku, Manager Iwi Development, the hui sought to explore the way in which these taonga database projects have developed over the last nine years and since National Services Te Paerangi began administering a contestable fund for museums and iwi (now Strategic Project Grants). The hui sought to raise awareness of the issues and challenges involved in undertaking iwi taonga database projects as well as the benefits and value that iwi have gained from completing the initial phases which involve research into museum collections in Aotearoa.

One such project took researchers from the East Coast of the North Island into collections held at the Tairawhiti, Auckland, Canterbury, and Te Papa museums, the Hawkes Bay Cultural Trust, and the National and Alexander Turnbull libraries.

Hera Ngata-Gibson and Wayne Ngata presented the hui with a digital database, Te Whatakōrero, a collection of taonga with provenance to the Aitanga-a-Hauiti tribe in the East Coast and which is intended for the internet for all descendants of Hauiti at a future date.  Te Whatakōrero is a digital database " that preserves and shares Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti culture, history and traditions for increasing understanding within and between differing cultural and age groups".

Of particular interest to the audience was the way in which the database interweaves the stories with current images of not only the taonga but also photographs taken by early ethnographers that contextualise the taonga and is beautifully enhanced by waiata of the Aitanga-a-Hauiti people. 

Developers and researchers of Te Whatakōrero digital database envisage this as the foundation stone in the development of a data and information management system that will continue to evole, serve and inform the cultural, economic and social imperatives of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti whanau, hapū and iwi.

Another challenge for iwi researchers currently is the right collection management system to store their taonga information on, with a number of software options available, it is essential iwi choose a system that is capable of accommodating the needs of the group now and into the future.  Iwi are keen to ensure that the software they choose allows simple and complex datafiles as well as colour images, sound recordings and video footage.  Other key considerations for iwi researchers is to work closely with whanau and hapū to clearly establish the purpose of the database and access rights. 

One of the suggestions from the group at this hui was to establish a network of taonga researchers with the possibility of maintaining regular communication to share ideas, technologies and challenges.

For further information about iwi taonga database research or other taonga project that you are considering, please contact National Services Te Paerangi on Freephone 0508 678 743 or email us.