Tracy Puklowski

IMG_8475Tracy P

Associate Director, Museum of Living Cultures Te Papa, New Zealand

The Evolution of Partnership at Te Papa


In 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission of enquiry, was established to investigate and make recommendations on breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, including loss of traditional lands and loss of cultural practices and materials.

In 2008, the National Government of New Zealand set a deadline of 2014, by which time all outstanding Treaty claims would be resolved. That deadline has now been accepted as ‘aspirational’, and the settlement process continues.

As the national museum, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has a special role to play in the Treaty settlement process, and is required to do so by Government. Many settlements make provision for ‘cultural redress’, requiring the development of agreements, negotiation, and ongoing relationship development between national cultural organisations such as Te Papa, and iwi (tribal groups). Te Papa is currently working with 30 iwi claimant groups, all at different stages of the settlement process, has been approached by nine new groups seeking engagement since January 2014, and is expecting at least another 48 groups to seek engagement within the next two years.[1]

Te Papa has always referred to itself as a bicultural museum, and one of its guiding principles is Mana Taonga. Mana Taonga acknowledges the right of source communities to determine how their cultural material is accessed, interpreted, and cared for. Increasingly, Te Papa is looking to Mana Taonga as a more relevant expression of its cultural stance, and thereby moving on from the binary implications of biculturalism. At its heart, Mana Taonga requires that relationships are two-way, and that authority is shared.

As the Treaty settlement environment evolves, so too does Te Papa’s understanding and articulation of Mana Taonga. This creates a dynamic and fluid environment which will increasingly require Te Papa to have strategic, yet flexible approaches to its relationships, particularly with iwi.

This paper will explore the work that has been undertaken to date by Te Papa with iwi claimant groups, will consider the challenges and issues that the next two years will bring, and reflects on what the wider impacts will be for museums in Aotearoa New Zealand. Will Mana Taonga become the guiding philosophy for all NZ museums in order for them to remain relevant in the post-Treaty settlement world? What does this mean for museums and their role in delivering cultural and social outcomes?

[1] Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Annual Report (draft) 2013/14 p. 27

Paper: The Evolution of Partnership at Te Papa


Tracy has held a wide range of cultural leadership roles in New Zealand throughout her career; she has been the Director of two museums, has worked in museums large and small, and has worked in all three of New Zealand’s national institutions (Archives New Zealand, the National Library of New Zealand, and the Museum of New Zealand). This experience has given Tracy a broad overview of the sector and an ongoing interest in the ways in which cultural organisations can work more effectively together to support their communities.

In her current role, Tracy leads a Directorate that is responsible for exhibition planning and delivery, education, public programmes, community relationships, and national partnerships. This Directorate – Living Cultures – is very much Te Papa’s interface between collections, communities, and stories.

Te Papa is a physical and philosophical manifestation of the bicultural partnership that underpins New Zealand as a nation, and many of its exhibitions and activities are driven by a commitment to working in partnership with communities, and co-creation. Tracy believes that this is where the future of museums lies. Tracy has post-graduate qualifications in Art History and Museum Studies, and is a graduate of the Getty Museum Leadership Programme (2009). She is also a Visiting Research Associate at the National Taiwan University of Education’s Museum Studies programme.


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