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This content is taken from the National Maritime Museum's online course, Confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in museums and public spaces. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds So the learning team made a decision not to centre these new school sessions around Cook and the voyage of Endeavour. This was a deliberate decision, because actually we wanted to forefront a different group of people. We wanted to forefront Pacific communities. The start of our work on this actually began with a sensitivity training session. At the start of the session we greet Adi Yeta. We’re going to be working with her. So it’s important that we actually introduce ourselves so the students are introduced to her and she is introduced to them. And so we greet her in Fijian, and we go with an informal greeting which is “Nisa embula vinaka”.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds If you’d like to have a go, please feel free to.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds So this greeting means that we are approaching the idea of working with Adi Yeta. We’re not working around her. She’s not a static object in the gallery. She is someone we’re collaborating with to understand Pacific cultures. Speaking Fijian is probably a good example of how we’re trying to learn, and how we are going to make mistakes. We’re going to have to learn as we go. We don’t pretend to have actually completed this. This is the start of a process. Children respond in the session particularly strongly to the Marshall Islands stick chart. The second part of our session, we focus on navigation.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds Having talked about the skills of boat building and the importance of this to any sort of ocean-going society, we then talk about navigation, how you can safely find your way. And the Marshall Islands stick chart is a fascinating object to work with for the children, because they literally have no idea where to begin with it. At the same time, we talk about the stars and using stars as navigational tool.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds And so this idea of knowledge being passed from generation to generation in the creation of Adi Yeta, or in the creation of understanding of navigation and these skills of how you can safely navigate between islands and an ocean, really starts to build an understanding of the depth of knowledge and the depth of experience that has gone into making Pacific communities these incredible navigators of the ocean. A theme that runs throughout the session is collective memory and connection to ancestors through this. And this is done through the skills of master boat builders, the skills of master navigators, the ability to memorise this huge amount of navigational information and skill.

Skip to 2 minutes and 38 seconds For instance, the rising and setting points of stars, the movement of ocean currents, the placement of islands. All these things being passed from generation to generation connecting people to the people that came before them. And this is a very different type of learning to what children and schools are used to. We finish the session talking about the Pacific today, and actually communicating the idea that the Pacific is a living space. And how people in the Pacific are particularly at risk from climate change.

Learning in the gallery

Ben Weddell, Learning Programmes Producer, talks in this video about how new learning sessions in the National Maritime Museum’s Pacific Encounters gallery have been developed.

See a video about how the Fijian double-hulled canoe, Adi Yeta, was built and sailed in See Also below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in museums and public spaces

National Maritime Museum