New fellowships bring Indigenous insight to Natural History Museum repatriations

Press release - 25 August 2011

The Natural History Museum is welcoming two representatives from Australia this autumn who will represent the Torres Strait Islands and Aboriginal Australia.

They will work with the Museum to learn about scientific and museum skills, and to develop a shared understanding amongst the museum.

Emma Loban from the Torres Strait Islands and Carol Christophersen from Darwin,  Australia will spend six months with the Museum working on projects linked to requests for the return of human remains to their community of origin.

“I feel extremely honoured to have been selected to work and study at the Natural History Museum,” said Emma Loban, the Torres Strait Islander representative. “This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire working knowledge, skills and experience in a leading international museum.  Upon my return to Australia, I plan on sharing what I have learned with the Torres Strait community to aid in the next step of the repatriation process.”

Emma works for the Torres Strait Regional Authority as the Operations Exhibitions Manager for Gab Titui Cultural Centre. She is also studying towards an Arts Law degree majoring in anthropology and international relations. Emma has experience and knowledge working with the Torres Strait Island communities and also worked at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra last year as part of another Fellowship. She has been involved as a volunteer on a leadership programme for students from Indigenous communities in the Cairns region.  

Carol Christophersen, the Aboriginal representative commented: “I am privileged and very proud to embark on this fellowship.  I am excited and enthusiastic to work in London at the Natural History Museum to offer my skills and to develop new ones to carry out this important role of repatriation.  The issue of returning our families stirs very powerful emotions in all of us, this will be most challenging.  We will be forging relationships and continuing the good work already started by Ned and others before us.  I look forward to working with the NHM.

Carol is an anthropologist for the Northern Land Council in Darwin. She has been with the Northern Land Council since 2002 and has extensive experience and knowledge of working with remote communities. Carol has been involved in Indigenous affairs since 1995 and has a strong desire and vested interest to work for Aboriginal people.

“These fellowships are the first initiative like this outside Australia, and offer everyone involved a great opportunity to learn from each other,” said Phil Rainbow, Interim Director of Science at the Natural History Museum.

Both Carol and Emma were selected from 94 applicants for the two fellowships, which have been created as part of the current international repatriation of ancestral remains arrangement between the Natural History Museum in London, the Torres Strait Island communities and the Australian Government. They are expected to arrive in the UK by the end of September.

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Notes for editors

Winner of Visit London’s 2010 Evening Standard’s Peoples Choice Best London for Free Experience Award and Best Family Fun Award the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in more than 70 countries.