Today -11 hours from home at the British Museum (Kayla Kuʻualoha Annen, Hawaiʻi, ITP 2023)

Written by Kayla Kuʻualoha Annen, Ethnology Collection Manager, Bishop Museum ( Hawaiʻi, ITP 2023)

Aloha. My name is Kayla Kuʻualoha Annen and I’m the Ethnology Collection Manager at The Bishop Museum in Honolulu Hawaiʻi. My work at Bishop Museum involves the care and preservation of material culture from Hawaiʻi and Oceania. I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of the ITP Fellowship this year!

Kayla pictured in the conservatory at the Horniman Museum

Since arriving in London, our programme has been packed with meaningful experiences that have provided me with a greater view of collections care, curatorial work, and a view into how the many departments across The British Museum work together to create genuine experiences for their visitors and surrounding institutions. I’m amazed at the capacity The British Museum has to execute large projects and exhibits across the UK. One talk that stands out to me was by Maria Bojanowska, Head of National Programs, who works with a multitude of people and departments to create traveling exhibits. She shared her internal process with us and the management of time and expectations across the museum. It has provided me with insight on how to manage larger projects at my home institution.

As a Collections Manager, I’m fascinated by the path museum objects take to arrive at an institution and the stories they tell about the social and political climates they were created in. During a trip to The British Museum stores with Alice Christophe and Frøya Crabtree from the department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, I had the opportunity to see beautiful works from Hawaiʻi. These works also tell many stories about growth, influence, devastation and gifting in the Hawaiian Islands. One collection piece that drew my attention was an ʻahuʻula (feather cape, Oc1903,0620.1). This ʻahuʻula has been immaculately cared for. It displays a combination of feathers from three types of birds, ʻiʻiwi (drepanis coccinea), ʻōʻō (moho nobilis), and moa (gallus gallus). The colors are luminous and I was enthralled at how it looks like a contemporary piece of art.

This past week I had the chance to meet with the Conservation Department and witness how they work collaboratively to create conservation plans for collections. They were gracious enough to advise me on creating storage for a collection piece at my own museum, a historically important featherwork from Hawaiʻi we refer to as Līloa’s Kāʻei (Bishop Museum 1910.018.001). It was amazing to observe how these professionals share their expertise and explore ideas to agree solutions to complex problems. I now feel prepared to move forward in creating safer storage for the kāʻei when I return home.

The kāʻei at the Bishop Museum.

Amongst the learning and experiences, I’ve had so far, the most rewarding has been getting to know the other fellows in the programme and exploring London together. I’m beyond grateful to have the privilege to learn about and from this dynamic group of museum professionals from around the world. I look forward to having these colleagues as thought partners in the future.

The 2023 ITP cohort at the Horniman Museum.