Australia: The Vatican Museum’s Indigenous Collection

Katherine Aigner

Australia: The Vatican Museum's Indigenous Collection
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Australia: The Vatican Museum’s Indigenous Collection

Katherine Aigner

From the ancient Etruscans and Romans, to the Renaissance masters of Michelangelo and Raphael, the Vatican Museums represent an aspect of the history of humanity through art.

The Indigenous Australian collection is a little known and unexplored part of that story. Being amongst some of the earliest known documentations of Australian Indigenous cultures, the collection includes the earliest extant set of Pukumani poles from Melville and Bathurst Islands, alongside more recent contributions of artworks and cultural objects, and presents materials that have not been exhibited before in Australia.

The responsibility to culturally reconnect relevant contemporary Indigenous communities to their material heritage held in the museum has been realised and is documented in this catalogue, which includes a catalogue of objects and essays by Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors. During the process of community visits and consultations, images of the objects brought old and young people together, instigating intergenerational dialogue about the past.

Now, in collaboration with communities, the Indigenous collection can be seen in this catalogue and is represented at the heart of the Vatican Museums where the objects have become cultural ambassadors inviting others to come and learn more about Australian Indigenous cultures.

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