May 25, 2022
Te Papa pushes back on monocultural dress code
Te Papa has pushed back on a new edict against the wearing of historical garments.
The International Council of Museums, which sets museum standards around the world, published the guidance in response to controversy stirred up by reality TV star Kim Kardashian borrowing the world’s most expensive dress – a Jean Louis gown made for Marilyn Monroe for a 1962 birthday gala for US President John Kennedy – to wear on the red carpet of this year’s Metropolitan Museum Gala in New York.
It was bought for the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! collection in 2016 for $4.8 million, and is usually stored in a darkened vault.
Te Papa curator Puawai Cairns says she told ICOM its edict was extremely eurocentric and would stop indigenous practices such as Māori borrowing kakahu from Te Papa to wear on important occasions such as tangihanga.
“A lot of these things don’t actually appear in their communities because they’ve been ransacked, they’ve been economically decimated, so I believed it was unfair of ICOM to release such monocultural guidelines without taking into consideration the other cultures they should also serve,” she says.
Puawai Cairns says ICOM has apologized and acknowledged it overlooked the importance of indigenous communities being able to wear museum objects.