Posted to the Ethnos Project by on June 11th, 2013

On October 1, 2003 the Ara Irititja: Protecting the Past, Accessing the Future—Indigenous Memories in a Digital Age touring exhibition began its nearly year and a half in-country tour at the South Australian Museum (SAM) in Adelaide.Ara Irititja’s production began in 1994 as part of the Pitjantjatjara Council’s “Return of Significant Cultural Property” project. Working with local anthropologist Ushma Scales, Pitjantjatjara elders Peter Nyaningu and Colin Tjapiya sought to capitalize on the growing awareness by museums and archives of the need to return cultural objects and human remains to their proper source communities.

Although by no means uncontroversial, museums across Australia, including SAM, have engaged with local communities to assess the possibilities and practicalities of repatriation. The goal of the Pitjantjatjara project was to return previously inaccessible materials to local communities in a form that was both easily accessible to a range of community members and adaptable to the remote locations in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia in which they live.

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