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[ Barry sent this in response to the Artefacts, labels and linguists post. He is the curator responsible for the Pacific Cultures Gallery at the South Australian Museum, and has a brilliant website for an Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea project on the relations between material culture and language, geographical propinquity, population, subsistence and environment.]

The outcome of the renovation of the Pacific Gallery is a compromise between the enormous task of upgrading and relabelling an exhibition of 3000 artefacts and the available funding. A lot of money went into removing the 1960s ceiling, replacing aircon, carpet and lighting, and a paint job. I did not agree with the shiny black but the Goths had the numbers in the committee.

We have begun the difficult task of providing renewed labelling in the wall cases - difficult because one case may have around a hundred items and in such instances we can't provide a label for each individual item - instead we will try to say something about the collectivity of objects that gives the viewer some sense of what they are looking at, in terms of types and geographical distribution (such as in the display of over 80 stone headed clubs). Electronic means of providing information will not be limited in this way and individual items will be provided with full data, including language groups (speech communities) from which the objects have come (where known).

In the meantime, we will be upgrading the wall case labeling on a progressive basis which, given available time and funding, could take a year or two.

Then the table case exhibits need re-doing to provide more of a focus on 'technologies' (eg. tobacco smoking equipment - as in the present display of betel-chewing equipment) and cross-cultural comparisons (such as in the display of headrests).

Simultaneously I have set myself the task of producing a full catalogue of the exhibits which, given the large number of objects and the many collectors and cultures represented, could well be a multi-volumed work if it ever became a book rather than the cheaper electronic version. I should live (and be retained) long enough!

However I am assisted by the excellent work of other researchers such as Dr Rod Ewins of Tasmania who is doing a complete catalogue of the Fijian collections (those on display and those in storage).

Similarly we will be identifying audio-visual material that can be added to the initial programs of the four screens in the Gallery, so that every time visitors come to the Gallery, they are likely to see different audio-visual material than they did last time they came. Note that one of the screens, at the east end of the Gallery, shows visual material from the Museum's archives but can also be used to show full films and Powerpoint presentations to school groups and particular interest groups.

We are also planning turnover of medium-term exhibits (12-18 months) at the east end of the Gallery, where "Three Women and an Island' is currently located, again so that visitors see new material over successive visits. A likely next contender for that space would be an exhibit of Asmat (West Papua) masks and shields donated to the museum in recent years by two private collectors in Sydney, who sent the material to us, rather than to the Australian Museum, because of the greater likelihood of a public showing here.

We will be developing a section of the museum's website devoted to the Pacific Gallery in the near future and that too will be a work in progress.

The retention of the late 19th century style of display is both serendipitous and a conscious choice - lack of funding has preserved the old displays from modernism and, in any case, the old style of display can be a point of discussion about colonial attitudes and collectors (not all detrimental as the post-modernists would imply).

We hope that many more visitors will enjoy the 'new look' Gallery over the coming years.

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
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