Our name is deliberate – “museo” was Filipinized to museyo. Kutawato is the prehistoric name of our land, in contrast to the colonially ascribed “Cotabato.”
Created for the centenary of the Province of Cotabato in 2014, the museum’s concept took nearly four years to plan and complete, involving a detailed collaborative process participated by multi-cultural stakeholders from conception to inauguration in April 2018.
The province’s diversity of Moro societies, eleven indigenous communities, and its assorted array of settler populations from across the Philippines was reflected in a curatorial team that composed a narrative set in the landscape of actualities shaping this land. Narrative dictated collection. Collection dictated visitor-centered gallery designs. The result is a museum that fosters participatory activities and provokes viewer impact.
Facilitating the curatorial team was the anthropologist and public writer Antonio J. Montalván II of Mindanao. He had served as head of the National Committee on Museums of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (2011-2013), the first from outside Manila elected to that position. He was president of the Mindanao Association of Museums (2006-2010). He is a member of the International Committee on Museums of Ethnography and the International Committee on Museums of Modern Art, both of which are specialty communities of the Paris-based International Committee of Museums. His collaborative approach for the curatorial training was purposeful, designed to gather a multiplicity of voices with an emphasis on telling truth to power to earnestly narrate peoples’ lives in a land known more for war than cultural wealth. It was also designed to empower communities with the ethics of curating museums.
Montalván recommended a non-negotiable aspect of museum management – materials conservation. Hence, the internationally trained conservationist Andrick Cesar Francisco (Lopez Memorial Museum, Museo Sansó) trained museum staff on collections management. Today, the museum maintains a laboratory capable of preserving objects of varied materials, the first in Mindanao with that technical capacity. It is also capable of preserving museum collection in times of disaster.