In recent decades many democracies around the world have tried to meet growing political demands to make amends for past wrongs by showing their troubling pasts. Museums, especially new national museums, have performed a crucial role in this historical work. In this article I examine the attempt of one of these, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to stage an exhibit about a historic agreement between the indigenous Maori people and the British government that had come to be regarded as the nation’s founding constitutional document at the same time as it remained the subject of much controversy and enormous contestation.
Difficult Histories: The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Treaty of Waitangi Exhibit
Bain Attwood is Professor of History at Monash University. He is the author of Rights for Aborigines (2003), Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History (2005), and Possession: Batman’s Treaty and the Matter of History (2009), and the co-editor of Telling Stories: Indigenous History and Memory in Australia and New Zealand (2001), Frontier Conflict in Australia (2003), and The Public Life of History (2008), a special issue of the journal Public Culture. He has undertaken work for the National Museum of Australia, and has contributed to public debates about Australia’s Aboriginal history.
I am indebted to Adam Clulow, Ian Copland, Jane Drakard, Stephen Foster, Claudia Haake, Seamus O’Hanlon, Miranda Johnson, Paul McHugh, Ruth B. Phillips, Andrew Sharp, Alistair Thomson, and three anonymous referees for their helpful comments on a draft of this article.
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Bain Attwood; Difficult Histories: The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Treaty of Waitangi Exhibit. The Public Historian 1 August 2013; 35 (3): 46–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2013.35.3.46
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