Learning to respect : the perspectives of heritage professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:45 by Jeanette Carol Atkinson
The thesis documents the historical, heritage and education context in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and discusses perceptions of values and identity in the postcolonial context. Previous research has examined the differing perspectives of indigenous peoples compared to European museum practice in the exhibition and preservation of cultural artefacts and the gradual progression towards collaborative working practices. However, the question of whether it is possible to teach awareness of those differing perspectives has been poorly addressed. This research builds on the current literature by exploring whether heritage professionals consider that it is possible to learn respect for differing cultural perspectives through the undertaking of training courses. In order to examine contemporary attitudes to communities and heritage institutions, knowledge and awareness of cultural values and perspectives on incorporating cultural values into educational programmes, the research investigation took the form of semi-structured interviews with 100 conservators, curators and educators working in New Zealand during the field research period of 2005--2006.;The participants' nationalities, professional working backgrounds and perceptions of cultural values, communities and education were examined, with the intention of determining their opinions relating to whether it was possible, necessary or desirable to incorporate cultural values into training programmes. Participants confirmed the view that museums are seen as the guardians of cultural artefacts and, therefore, they need to be inclusive of the communities who own those artefacts. Findings indicate that an awareness of one's own values and the recognition of difference are fundamental to facilitating understanding of the values and belief systems of other people. The research suggests that acquiring language skills and studying within a culture, with the people of that culture, rather than purely theoretically, could assist in gaining greater inter-cultural awareness and respect for differing perspectives.