Archival and Provenance Research with Indigenous Collections

1 May 2023

Carleigh Candice Mignonne Milburn, PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies at Queen’s University, was awarded the 2023 Research Studentship in Indigenous Art. Her research at Agnes involves directed archival and provenance research on Indigenous collections from the Pacific Northwest Coast, under the supervision of Sebastian De Line, Associate Curator, Care and Relations. Provenance work of the Queen’s transfer collection is an essential step for rematriation.

“Some of this research involves learning where each being and belonging comes from and who their relations are,” says Sebastian. “This can be a near impossible task when 19th- and 20th-century records notoriously left out this information. That’s why the work that Carleigh is undertaking in researching is vital. While it can take months or often years to locate communities of origin, it feels rewarding not only on an intellectual level, but also emotionally and spiritually.”

This research aims to give back ancestors to their original place of origin for respectful restoration and revitalization with Aboriginal community members in partnership with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Carleigh previously worked with Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ artwork, and cultural materials with the University of Sydney in Australia.

“At Agnes, I investigated two Aboriginal Australian breastplates acquired from Dr J.P. Thomson [1907]. The more I sat with them, the more they told me their stories,” says Carleigh. “This Research Studentship confirms how important restoration and revitalization are for forming better relationships amongst each other.”

The Studentship offers an in-depth experiential learning opportunity in Indigenous material culture within a professional museum environment and is funded by a generous gift from Margaret McGowan (Artsci’78).
Image Credits

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