Wantok Place is a museum of Papua New Guinea (PNG) artefacts owned by the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) and governed by the LCA Committee for International Mission. Wantok Place previously was called the Louise Flierl Mission Museum and was housed in Hahndorf. In 2019 the museum was relocated to North Adelaide.
Wantok Place is important because: it preserves aspects of culture and mission in PNG and beyond which would otherwise become lost or forgotten; it shows that Lutheran missionaries respected and admired the people and their cultural traditions; and it is a visible sign of our ongoing partnership and friendship with partner churches in PNG and South-East Asia.
Origins of the museum
The Louise Flierl Mission Museum was opened in March 1998. Its founder and first curator, Christel Metzner, established it to house and make available for public view artefacts gathered over the years from Australian Lutheran international mission fields, primarily in PNG, but a few also from South-East Asia partner churches.
This museum would not exist today if it were not for the extraordinary effort of Mrs Metzner, supported by her husband, Rev Dr Ulf Metzner, former LCA Mission Director. From 1993 Mrs Metzner put the collection together from artefacts that had been stored in the former LCA Church House in Archer Street, North Adelaide, and from other sources.
The collection has significant relational value to the LCA, in that it exists as a result of the work of Australian Lutheran missionaries in PNG from 1886 and over the following century.
The museum was named after Louise Flierl, who served with her husband, Pastor Johann Flierl, in pioneering missionary work in PNG for 42 years. Pastor Flierl was the first Australian Lutheran missionary in PNG.
The collection is comprised of about 1500 artefacts that were acquired by missionaries and lay people who worked primarily in the PNG mission fields. Some items have significant cultural and financial value.
The museum was located from 1998 in an old stone building in Hahndorf known as the Old St Paul’s Church. It was owned by St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Hahndorf.
The museum had been managed by a committee of volunteers, headed by John Schultz. John photographed all items and maintained the museum catalogue. In recent years the museum was open to the public by appointment.
Moving to its new home
In early 2018 St Paul’s congregation gave notice that it was selling the Old St Paul’s Church, so a new site was needed for the museum. The building was sold in late 2018.
On 9 March 2018, the LCA Committee for International Mission initiated an investigation into options for the relocation and future management of the museum. A report was produced with recommendations about the future of the museum which were then adopted by the Committee.
A relocation project was established to pack up the museum artefacts and re-establish the collection in new premises. Timothy Pietsch was appointed as project manager.
The LCA Committee for International Mission approved relocation of the museum to a new site within the LLL building, at 175 Archer Street, North Adelaide.
Dr Barry Craig, former Senior Curator Foreign Ethnology at SA Museum, was appointed consultant curator. Matthew Flinders Fellow in History at Flinders University Associate Professor Christine Winter also has provided advice.
A conservator from Artlab Australia was engaged to supervise the cleaning and packing of objects and to train assistant volunteers Rev Dr Dean Zweck, Dorothy Zweck and Ann Pietsch.
John Schultz arranged for other volunteers to move the artefacts to North Adelaide, and also to refurbish 13 display cases.
An official opening for invited guests took place on Sunday, 16 June 2019.
Artefacts in the museum
About 1000 artefacts are on display. These include daggers, bows, arrows, shields, spears, sorcery and magic bundles, bullroarers, flutes, masks, tools, clothing and jewellery, pots, drums, conch shells, bilums (woven bags) and storyboards.
There are also about 50 artefacts from South-East Asia mission partners Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Most of these items were given to the LCA by Australian Lutheran College scholarship holders.
There are also many items which are of tourist quality. These include carved crocodiles, bowls and woven bags, and are kept in storage.
Origins of the artefacts
The artefacts were given to, or were acquired by, Australian Lutheran missionaries and lay people who worked in Papua New Guinea from 1886 for the next 100 or so years.
The artefacts were subsequently donated to the LCA. All but very few items in the collection are owned by the LCA.
Most of the items are well-documented in the collection’s catalogue. All artefacts have also been photographed.
Among artefacts from the Church House display cases are some whose provenance and donor are unknown. (See the April 2019 issue of The Lutheran for an article about one of these, a stone figure which may be prehistoric in origin.)
The new location
The museum has been relocated to the east wing of the LLL Building in North Adelaide. The new site is an ideal home for a museum, with good security, climate and lighting control.
Minor structural modifications and refurbishment of the site were undertaken, including the installation of a new art track hanging system.
The new layout of the museum has been designed along geographical mission regions:
- PNG – the coastal areas of the Huon Peninsula, then the highland areas, with special features for Menyamya and the Sepik region
- South-East Asia mission partners – Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand Cambodia and Myanmar.
Funding has been obtained from the Lutheran Overseas Partner Churches Special Fund for new interpretive signage. The aim is for the museum to tell the story of the partnership in the gospel between the LCA and our South-East Asia mission partners.
The meaning of Wantok Place
A new name, Wantok Place, has been chosen for the museum by the LCA Committee for International Mission. Signage for Wantok Place will include the subtitle ‘Museum of Papua New Guinea Artefacts’, and the LCA International Mission logo.
The previous name – Louise Flierl Mission Museum – had been closely associated with the previous location in Hahndorf.
The new name honours PNG culture through the use of the Pidgin word ‘wantok’ (translating to ‘one-talk’ in English), which means a speaker of the same language, friend, or partner.
The word ‘wantok’ catches the idea of partnership, of working together, of people who share the same values. According to a former missionary to PNG, ‘wantoks’ are people ‘who belong together, who are friends and compatriots [in the Kingdom of God]’.
This is an exciting new development for LCA International Mission, and an opportunity to publicise to the church and the public the wonderful work that has gone on, and continues to go on, in our overseas mission partner fields.
22 April 2019