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Recent NIU alum partakes in co-curation of new Philippine exhibit at Field Museum

March 8, 2017

Beginning this year, the Field Museum installed a new Philippine exhibit comprising some of the 10,000 Philippine objects once tucked behind museum vaults for decades. It has been more than 15 years since a Philippine collection exhibit was displayed at the museum. Recent NIU master in anthropology, Laurence Tumpag was asked during the co-curation and object selection process to contribute information for the lin-lingo neck ornament, one of the five objects exhibited, based on his knowledge as a Filipino-American, scholar, and life-long collector and curator of Southeast Asian material culture. The installation, located at the entrance of the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific, will be up throughout 2017 and will soon feature a digital rail enabling the museum to incorporate more information regarding the objects, co-curation and the Philippines based on feedback they are gaining in collaboration with the Filipino community.

Tumpag holding personal collection next to Philippine exhibit

According to Tumpag, “This is an exciting time for Filipinos in the U.S. to get involved with museums because exhibits, and the Field Museum’s associated co-curation programming known as the Pamanang Pinoy series,┬áis giving us an additional platform to have our voices heard and our presence and experiences known in this country.” Tumpag sees members of his community taking active roles reconnecting with these objects and one another as they interpret their heritage, histories and identities together in the museum space. Filipinos across the diaspora and people of different ethnicities and backgrounds interested in the Philippine collection have traveled near and far to engage in object storytelling and community-museum partnership. “It’s amazing seeing a diverse group of people gathered together to celebrate heritage,” he states.


The Pamanang Pinoy series also facilitates dialogue on a wide range of cultural and socially relevant topics. At a past event focusing on “Gendered Objects,” Tumpag spoke as part of a diverse panel of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans discussing how they are navigating their gender identities as various artifacts served to facilitate the dialogue. Tumpag framed his talk around the lin-lingo saying its symbolic form can help remind his community how their ancestors thought of gender in a much wider and inclusive spectrum than is viewed by today’s society.

At NIU, the Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia Collection in collaboration with the Asian American Resource Center is giving Tumpag the opportunity to expand on the lin-lingo object he helped to feature at the Field. This March, Tumpag will curate an exhibit on the 4th floor of Founders Memorial Library highlighting many variations of this symbol that exist throughout Southeast Asia due in part to precolonial trade networks. The exhibit hopes to speak about the symbol’s cultural significance for different ethnic groups and the new meanings and interpretations people of the region attribute to the symbol in contemporary times.