Building an indigenous museum in the Vatican: some Papuan directions for indigenising museums

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Debates around the significance, function and social value of museums are still challenging museum practices and models. In particular, the demands of “source communities” for self-representation and self-emancipation in the global community continue to question the role of the museum as a catalyst for promoting social change across cultures. In this paper, I push this question further by drawing on an initiative of a group of Roman Catholic woodcarvers of central Asmat (West Papua, Indonesia) to build a museum for exhibiting their carvings in the Vatican. To them, the Vatican is not only the sacred centre of Catholicism but also an integral part of their mythical world of ancestors. After a brief examination of their proposal, I attempt to put their museum idea into dialogue with current debates on “the postcolonial museum” to highlight how it can dictate new directions for indigenising museums.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalTsantsa: the Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • transcultural indigenous museums
  • social change
  • museum indigenisation
  • Asmat woodcarvers
  • Papua
  • Indonesia


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