Working with Volunteers by Anika Klee

Everyone knows that volunteers can often be the unsung heroes of the museum world, helping out with a range of tasks and activities.

I have recently been involved in recruiting volunteers to work within the Human History department at Auckland War Memorial Museum, sorting CVs, shortlisting and interviewing the prospective volunteers in a casual style. Being a volunteer at Auckland Museum is a sought after position and being responsible for giving that opportunity to someone was a difficult but rewarding process. It gave me some insight into how difficult recruiting for a paying role must be and how attitude can be more important than experience.

We recruited two volunteers to help the Collection Managers and me with various tasks. Both of the successful applicants are still at university studying for their undergraduate degrees.  I wish I had known to volunteer when I was at that stage of university – not that I knew what I wanted to do with my life at that point! This meant that neither had any hands-on museum experience. Everything they do is new, and is helping them to develop skills that are valuable to potential future careers in the museum sector; if that is the path they wish to take.

World War I uniform photography

My own experience of volunteering in museums was very different to what I am involved with now; I was often given a project and left to work on it by myself, not having direct contact with a mentor or manager. Only occasionally would I work with others, and in these instances they had the same burgeoning skill set as me.

At Auckland Museum however, I work very closely with my volunteer as we photograph World War I uniforms for a half day once a week – often the uniforms are difficult to handle by just one person, so having my volunteer is invaluable.

I have been able to teach her to use our studio photography set up, the ins and outs of our cameras, given insight into a few of the interesting Auckland Museum numbering systems and how to attach the images to Vernon (our Collection Management System). Imparting experience to someone does remind me how much I now know, and how I should remember to value my own capabilities.

As an emerging museum professional, working with volunteers is a great way to show leadership and develop the ability to teach others. Through this experience I have learnt many things, but perhaps the most surprising, was that in increasing someone else’s professional capacity, you often can increase your own.

Anika Klee
Collection Information Technician – Human History,
Auckland War Memorial Museum

News Update 11 November 2014

Kia ora

This week’s museum news is topped by the announcement of the appointment of former TVNZ boss Rick Ellis as CE of Te Papa. The official press release says.”Mr Ellis is renowned for helping organisations take dramatic steps forward”. Ellis has been emphasising the digital future of museums, with TVNZ quoting Ellis promising a new era, “moving away from the passive physical engagement of the past and looking to technology innovation here out of New Zealand, as well as what others are doing and learn from that and hopefully bring something quite magic alive”, and Te Papa chairman Evan Williams saying Ellis will bring a “shift in the culture of the organisation”. The public reaction so far has been mixed, with the Dominion Post saying “his performance will be watched with a cool and sceptical eye”. He has already been interviewed by Radio NZ and NewstalkZB. Mr Ellis officially begins on 24 November.
Also announced this week is the appointment of Laura Vodanovich, currently director at Tairawhiti Museum, as Director of MTG Hawke’s Bay. After a local political and media storm, and controversial public review of the new facility, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins is leaving MTG in December to pursue other projects. Laura will take over on 1 February 2015. Hawke’s Bay Today reports that the Napier City Council is likely to delay a decision on a new storage facility until after Laura takes up her appointment.

We saw Laura and other colleagues from Tairawhiti Museum, as well as Kawerau, Opotiki, Tauranga and Rotorua, at our regional meeting in Whakatāne on 31 October. We had a very warm welcome into the Mataatua whare at Te Manuka Tutahi, then went on to explore the problematic museum and archive store, followed by lunch at Te Kōputu a te Whanga a Toi, the new Whakatāne Library and Exhibition Centre.

Last week we were in Christchurch where over 30 museum folk gathered at Canterbury University. We met and mingled in the Logie Collection room, and had a fascinating series of pitopito kōrero covering topics from research and teaching with university collections, digital archives, access to collections and new opportunities post-earthquakes, to the expanding museum scene in China. We were particularly interested in the prototype display case that the Logie Collection have commissioned, with built-in lift to enable the heavy toughened glass top to be raised and the contents accessed by one person.

Our regional meetings continue next week at Otago Museum on Tuesday 18 November, with the last for this year at Te Uru (former Lopdell House Gallery) on Friday 28 November. All welcome! Please RSVP as spaces are limited.

The 2014 Museum Sector Survey questionnaire is being distributed this week.  We encourage all museums and galleries to complete the survey, which provides essential data for our advocacy for the sector. This year we have revised and expanded the survey – although it looks more daunting, it includes more explanatory notes, and we have coordinator available to help. The extra detail will provide everyone with more robust tools to inform planning and local and national advocacy.  Both a summary and detailed report will be available in the new year.

The NDF (National Digital Forum) conference is rapidly approaching. MA is pleased to be sponsoring two delegates to attend, selected from a small but interested group of deserving applicants. We will be hearing from Maddy Jones and Jamie Bell when they share their experiences through our blog after the conference. We also encourage all museums and galleries to take part in the NDF Digitisation Survey, the results of which will be reported at the conference.

We look forward to seeing you at meetings or at NDF, and always welcome your telephone calls (04 499 1313) and emails. Feedback and ideas from members are vital to ensure we’re doing the best we can to support museums and galleries in Aotearoa.

Mauriora,Nā Phillipa māua ko Talei

News Update 28 October, 2014

Kia ora

Last week Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand launched the last of its themed section, completing the 12-year build programme. Launching Creative and Intellectual Life, editor Jock Phillips was joined by Sam Neill and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, with performances by poet Hinemoana Baker and a troupe from the NZ School of Dance.  There was also support from our new Minister, Hon Maggie Barry. The celebration was well-deserved by all the many contributors – both MCH staff and the experts, writers and researchers who have made Te Ara such a rich and compelling resource. Congratulations also to Jock for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award he received last week. Jock will now retire to write, and the team at MCH will continue the evolution of Te Ara. The launch was covered by Radio NZ’s Morning Report.

Waikato Forum

We are just about to open a new iteration of the MA sector survey, and want every museum and gallery in the country to take part. The last survey was in 2012, and our revised questionnaire will build on that information. Claire Scouse is working with us over the next few weeks to coordinate the survey, and will be available to help respondents.

We also have Maddy Jones working with us to prepare the 2015 Directory of Museums and Galleries. Maddy and Claire are both working part-time in our three-desk office, so it is very busy at the moment!

We’ve been enjoying getting out and meeting with members and colleagues around the country. Thérèse Angelo and Phillipa were in Invercargill recently, next up is Whakatāne on Friday and Christchurch on Tuesday 4 November. These regional meetings are a great way to catch up with what’s happening in your region, and we’ve had some wonderfully inspiring presentations. The Christchurch meeting will include a short Special General Meeting, called to approve a minor change to the MA Constitution. We want to change the rule about timing of the AGM from 4 to 6 months after the end of our financial year – this gives us more flexibility with conference dates, allowing us to hold the next AGM during MA15 in May.

Taranaki Forum

Planning for MA15 is well under way. The MA Board will meet in Dunedin on 19 November, and several Board members will be at the Dunedin regional meeting on 18 November.  We’re enjoying working with an enthusiastic planning team and our generous hosts at Otago Museum.

And we note the extensive tributes to our late friend Jonathan Mane-Wheoki in various media, including this beautiful compilation by Te Papa.

Mauriora,

Nā Phillipa māua ko Talei

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014)

Our friend and colleague has passed away peacefully, with his whanau by his side. We send aroha and sympathy, and our deep respect for the life he lived and the gifts he shared so freely.
Dominion Post notice
Spiritual Outlook interview (Aug 2014)
Auckland Art Gallery release

 

News Update 30 September 2014

Kia ora

Its great to see some really good news stories about museums and galleries recently in amongst the war, crime and election results making headlines. MOTAT was on Saturday’s TV One news as well as the Herald as it celebrates 50 years with new exhibits and a new strategy. And it seems that everyone loves a good slimy squid story – especially on video!

Young Theo experiments with Motat’s new ‘Welcome to the Machine’ exhibition. Photo / Mark Wardle

Last Friday the winner of the biennial Walters Prize was announced at Auckland Art Gallery – international judge Charles Esche was interviewed by Lyn Freeman on Radio NZ’s Standing Room Only, along with winning artist Luke Willis Thompson. Freeman also interviewed Simon Denny, Walters Prize finalist and artist selected to represent NZ at the 2016 Venice Biennale, whose show The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom opens at the Adam Art Gallery this Friday.

The news was mixed for Museum of Wellington City and Sea, when they announced that the ‘key to the city’ of Wellington had been stolen from its display case - but the story turned out well when it was anonymously returned to Wellington Police. Also mixed exposure for Waitangi National Trust in the papers and TV3 drawing comments from PM John Key and local MP Kelvin Davis with the introduction of a $15 entry fee for New Zealanders after the fee was dropped in 2008.

On the down side, the Ashburton museum and gallery building is in the news again with its budget blowout and parking disputes between council and residents - another example of conflicting local interests getting in the way of what should be a positive community amentity.

And congratulations to Canterbury Museum, winner of the Tourism/Hospitality (medium/large enterprise) category at the 2014 Champion Canterbury Business Awards , just ahead of the Air Force Museum – Vbase partnership.

After serving for 32 years, Mike Taylor has retired from the staff and management committee of Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum.  The new Manager is Alison Hinkley, and the new President of Picton Historical Society is Jon Perano.  The Society reports they are in good heart and moving forward with new displays and looking forward to a busy cruise-ship season.TripAdvisor has named Te Papa best in the South Pacific, and Auckland Museum 2nd – ahead of all the Australian museums. Eight other New Zealand museums feature in the list, giving us 40% of the the top 25, with only 20% of Australia’s population and 15% of its GDP.

Last week saw about 40 people from a wide range of organisations meeting for ICOM NZ‘s conference at Auckland Museum, joined by a number of museum staff for many sessions. The theme of Pacific Connections: Culture, Connections, Museums and Research produced a varied and engaging 2-day programme.  The eye-opener for many was a sobering presentation about the reality of Pacific Islanders’ position in Auckland society by Damon Salesa, Associate Professor of Pacific Studies at The University of Auckland, and the first person of  Pacific Island descent to become a Rhodes scholar to Oxford. With humour and empathy, Damon explained the disengagement of Pasifika from mainstream economy, education and political power, and offered some insights into how some of these disadvantages and injustices might be addressed by museums. Thanks to hosts Auckland Museum, and the organisers, especially Jane Legget, for all the hard work that went into the conference.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Roy Clare

Another highlight for those who stayed for the Museum Medals event at Auckland Museum on 23 September was the presentation of awards to some special colleagues. Linda Tyler and Margaret Morley were made Associate Emerita of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Dame Cheryll Sotheran were made a Companion of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which recognises achievement or contribution to areas relevant to, or in some way connected to, the public service of Auckland Museum or other New Zealand museums. We applaud their well-deserved recognition.

Attending the ICOM conference and staying on to visit Wellington was Professor Dr Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM international. His conference keynote explained the background of Germany’s colonial activity in the Pacific and its end because of WW1. Dr Hinz also gave a well-attended presentation about cultural objects at risk, hosted by NSTP at Te Papa last week.

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at our regional meetings in the next two months, with the first at Waitomo tomorrow.  We’re also excited by the lineup of speakers for this year’s National Digital Forum conference, 25-26 November at Te Papa. You have until 5pm today (30 September) to apply for a registration bursary from MA.

If you’re in Wellington next Wednesday, 8 October, we recommend the Awesome Arts Access Auction. This is both fun and a terrific cause, we hope to see many friends and supporters there.

Mauriora,
Nā Phillipa māua ko Talei

From Auckland to New Plymouth by Elspeth Hocking

MapIn the interests of full disclosure, I was born and raised an Aucklander. I drink lattes, have developed opinions on traffic and generally have to fight off my natural tendencies towards being a bit pretentious. However, I no longer live in Auckland, a fact that is purely career based.

I decided museums were where I wanted to be in my second year of my history degree in Auckland. Being quite young and not having a house, pets or children to keep me in one place, I opted to move to Wellington to do the Master of Museum and Heritage Studies degree full time for two years. Little did I know that this would be the first of many moves as I got further and further down the rabbit hole of being a museum obsessive! During our studies, my classmates and I were repeatedly advised by our excellent lecturers that we’d need to look wider than the main centres to really develop our careers. I told lots of people that I’d be totally happy to move to ‘the regions’ for a while for my career, it’d be an adventure, without really thinking it was an actual possibility (I did mention I’m an Aucklander, right?)

image002

After two years in Wellington, with a three month stint at what was then the Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery (now MTG) in Napier thrown in for good measure, I got my first job – back in Auckland. So, very sadly, I packed up my life in Wellington, said farewell to the fabulous friends I’d made there, had a last emotional visit to my spiritual home of Moore Wilsons, and made the trek back north. After 18 months of visitor research I began to feel like it was time to get back to where I’d always wanted to be – collections. I applied for a number of curatorial and collection positions around the country, including at Puke Ariki, where I had an interview. Well, I was offered the job: Social History Curator, AKA job of dreams, just not really where I’d pictured living.

I took a deep breath and took the job. I then cried for a week. I moved to New Plymouth, leaving my partner in Auckland to continue his PhD. I cried for another week. Then I started the job and I loved it. I still love it. The most incredible thing about working for a regional museum, particularly one as fabulous as Puke Ariki, is the variety of things you get to do on a day to day basis. Recently I’ve curated a collection exhibition, been interviewed on local radio about the Social History collection, dealt with new acquisitions, and started preparing material for our World War One exhibition – and this changes week by week.

e and mountain

I’m still getting to know New Plymouth and Taranaki as a place to live. It’s very different to anywhere I’ve lived before, and I love being so close to the mountain and getting out and about along the coastline. However it is noticeably small and isolated compared to what I’m used to. I miss my partner, family and friends further north immensely, and there are no good Chinese restaurants nearby which I would love to see change! However the work experience I’m getting at Puke Ariki is invaluable. The point I’m trying to make is that my lecturers were right, of course –upping sticks and moving towns for a job in a regional museum is a tough decision, especially if you’re a bit of a city girl like me. But despite the challenges and the exorbitant amount of money I’ve spent on airfares, I’m so pleased I chose to get out of my comfort zone, and so grateful Puke Ariki took a chance on me. The opportunities I’ve had here to develop an enormous range of skills and try a bit of everything museum-related have been astonishing. I’d highly recommend giving smaller-town New Zealand museums a chance if you’re ready for a change of pace and a chance to do a bit of everything!

Elspeth Hocking
Curator Social History, Puke Ariki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News Update 16 September, 2014

Kia ora

Do you read blogs?  They have been getting a bad rap from the ‘Dirty Politics’ and Whale Oil scandals of the last few weeks, and it’s true that some blogs are places for opinionated individuals to vent their ideas. Others are more balanced, and often very informative. Many museums and galleries have their own blogs in which staff can share insights into their collections and research which may otherwise not get into the public domain – a great way to extend reach and engagement.

The Museums Aotearoa blog has a wide range of voices from our membership. Last week Chanelle Carrick of Puke Ariki shared her experience of working with local artists. Other recent posts explored digital culture (Sarah Powell) and measuring our value (Kamaya Crawford). If you aren’t seeing these, it’s easy to get email notifications by clicking Follow on the blog page.

PLAYnes, a participatory installation by Home Work artist Olivier Perkins with Meg the Puke Ariki Megaladon (author’s image)

It is worth while checking out other local blogs too. A recent post for Artists Alliance is by Melissa Laing. In Negotiating Consent, Laing explores the implications of working with the public, either for research or for creating artwork, and there is much in her kōrero that is relevant to curating and exhibiting as well.

International museums opinions and news can be found everywhere. Thanks to Global Museum, we found this Huffington Post article by Paul Cantor, Why Museums Are Very Cool and Should Be Visited Often. Cantor acknowledges the easy access to museum collections and information via the internet, and explains why people can gain even more valuable experiences when they use that as a starting point for an in-person visit. He also explores the effect of the digital world on photography, drawing some interesting insights from an exhibition at the Met of Garry Winogrand’s photographs of American life from the 1950s to 1980s. He also notes that the Winogrand exhibition was not the trigger for his visit – “the beauty of going to a museum with no real plan is that you can wind up seeing things unexpectedly”.

Phar Lap, taxidermied in the USA after his untimely – and possibly accidental poisoning – death, is a popular display at the Melbourne Museum. The people of Melbourne acknowledge his NZ birth and embrace him as one of the greatest Australian racehorses, with school groups and tourist flocking to admire the legend on a Monday afternoon. (Phillipa is in Melbourne meeting with Museums Australia, courtesy of Tourism NZ.)

Another online item that was referred to us recently (thanks Andrew Clifford!) is a report on online magazine Ocula. While not strictly a blog, this is another online opinion source to which anyone can freely subscribe. In China Museum Tour: the Highlights, Sophia McKinnon, offers an overview of visiting 20 Chinese museums in 20 days. Kiwi-born, Beijing-based Sophia describes a museum sector very different from our own – in which architecture = prestige, ‘contemporary art’ has quite a different meaning, and both public and private museums require state approval to exist.
It makes you think!

Mauriora,

Nā Phillipa māua ko Talei


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