Home » Taken Rapanui Heritage: Addressing a Legacy of Empires

Taken Rapanui Heritage: Addressing a Legacy of Empires


Thousands of Rapanui artefacts sit in the collections of museums across the western world with stories untold. They remain invisible to the descendants of those who made, used them and gave them meaning. Some have been published in books or are available to view online, but who has curated this narrative? Who can access them emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually? Not the people of Rapa Nui Easter Island to whom they spiritually belong.

Taken Rapanui Heritage seeks to help re-connect this invaluable collective cultural treasure with source communities. In doing so we also provide a case study that helps us all explore and understand legacies of past empires into the present. Our project is a collaboration between Rapanui Pioneers Society on Rapa Nui Easter Island and The Earth Museum on the Isle of Wight. We walk in the shoes of other attempts to document Rapanui heritage in museums around the world, to which we humbly bow our heads. We do not (at least presently) attempt to be comprehensive in our coverage but to create learning resources that inspire debate.


We have created a trio of interactive maps and associated commentaries for you to explore.



The Island Map


On this map we digitally reconnect cultural treasures now in museums far away with those places on Rapa Nui that are their spiritual home.

Polynesian people mastered navigation to an incredibly high level and navigated unchallenged over the Pacific Ocean for many centuries. They reached remote archipelagos and islands where they settled and established highly specialised societies that adapted to the specific conditions, climate, resources and vegetation of each one of them. In an incredible achievement they reached the lonely volcanic island currently known as Rapa Nui (Easter Island) about one thousand years ago…


The Museum Map


On this map we illustrate a selection of museums across the world which hold Rapanui cultural heritage in their collections.

European and American explorers arrived on the shores of this Pacific Island as transitory visitors passing through, spending a few days at most walking its contours and meeting a few of the Rapanui people for whom it was home. Yet they brought an intellectual baggage with them that has left its mark for generations to come on Rapa Nui and globally. Through the lens of scientific curiosity and a sense of cultural superiority, these uninvited visitors through they were doing good for the world by taking…


The Expeditions Map


On this map we illustrate many of the ports of origin for expeditions that took Rapanui cultural heritage, and illustrate a selection of these expeditions.

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