Hi! Have you got a few minutes to talk about your experience in the museum today?

Sydney Exhibition Centre @ Glebe Island. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/439452876111775506/

Sydney Exhibition Centre @ Glebe Island. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/439452876111775506/

Visitor surveying is an important outreach method museums and galleries employ to find out who is coming in the doors, and why. We need to know who our visitors are in order to target things like design decisions, what we will exhibit, and what kind of programmes matter. When visitation is on the rise, it’s easier to hit up those who hold the purse strings. When it reduces … well, it’s time to start looking at ways to get bums back on the seats, so to speak. Our sector needs robust data. We have local councils asking us to justify our programmes against our visitation, wanting us to make sure we stay relevant… and the National Visitor Survey provides just that.

People who take the time to participate in surveys are giving us exactly that – their time. It’s something we are all short of. In the course of coordinating the NVS, I’m constantly reminded of how time- and staff-poor museums are. Indeed, time management affects us all. Conflicting pressures from projects, kids, work, home (not in that order) mean that we are all chasing our tails. Time costs, and we budget it according to our own set of priorities.

Results from last year’s NVS suggest 35% of our visitors are over 60 – baby boomers who are time rich. 30% are 40-60 years old, and another 30% are 20-40. So, we have a pretty even spread of people who both come to our organisations, and participate in our surveys. It’s not just the baby boomers sitting down and having a chat.

Visitors want to see what we have. They want an experience. And it’s their visitation that keeps our doors open. We all need to know more about our visitors, and the National Visitor Survey gives you a nationally comparable snapshot.

Join in. There’s still time!

Jeremiah Boniface
 Jeremiah is currently coordinating our annual visitor survey and is the talent who made our popular infographic with the 2013 data. 



One Year On – Guest Post by Courtney Johnston

Museums Aotearoa kindly extended me the invitation to write about my experiences in my first year in the job. Instead, I’ve decided to give the column over to highlighting a small but important issue many of us face.

The DominionPost recently published an article titled ‘Kids dip out as cost of school trip rises’. The story is based on a report from the Ministry of Education to MPs on a decrease in the number of children taking part in LEOTC visits. The story identified the cost of getting kids to the museums and galleries (and more) that run LEOTC programmes as a growing barrier to schools:

Experiences outside the classroom were “priceless” for Cannons Creek primary school children, but principal Ruth O’Neill said the cost was a huge barrier.

… Mrs O’Neill said school trips were increasingly unaffordable, and that would cost children in the future. “We asked our year 5 and 6 children who had been to Te Papa or the Botanical Gardens and none of them had. Most of them hadn’t even been to Wellington.”

School trips provided context to the curriculum, but if children did not have the experience they would always be behind, she said.

The article backs up what we’re hearing from schools and seeing at The Dowse. We’re certainly not alone; when we hosted a hui for LEOTC educators recently, this was identified by everyone as a growing problem.

This is Barbara. She visits The Dowse once a term with her ESOL class to explore art, literature, history, culture and humanity. Barbara was one of the children who selected an artwork for the kids-curated show Pic’n'Mix; she picked a still life by Maud Sherwood.

This is Barbara. She visits The Dowse once a term with her ESOL class to explore art, literature, history, culture and humanity. Barbara was one of the children who selected an artwork for the kids-curated show Pic’n’Mix; she picked a still life by Maud Sherwood.

When we look at our visit data, schools within walking distance are our most regular visitors: we form great, long-lasting relationships with these teachers and kids, and The Dowse becomes a familiar and happy part of their lives. The further away schools are – and the lower the decile – the more rarely we see them, and the more they miss out. And that’s just locally, let alone missing out on what the whole Wellington region – which is incredibly rich in LEOTC providers – has to offer.

We are acutely conscious that the cost of a bus trip should not stop kids from using and loving The Dowse. We are lucky to have access to a subsidised bus through The Learning Connexion. Previously we’ve been able to offer this service for free, but the grant that funded this has run out. Right now, we’re offering the bus to schools we know need it, and absorbing the costs; to do this, we’re scrimping on other budget lines. Shortly we’re going to be launching a fundraising campaign to try to recreate the fund.

Personally, I feel schools’ difficulty funding transport is just the saddest and stupidest reason for those kids to be missing out. In the time I’ve been at The Dowse, some of my most joyful moments have come from tagging along with school groups. And one of my most hard-hitting moments did too.

I went into the education workshop at the end of the school day. A class was in there making shrinky-dink charms to hang off bracelets, inspired by the stories in Myths & Monsters. I’d hung out with them earlier in the gallery and met their principal, who was with them. She told me that the visit had been hard to organise, because it was tough to recruit enough parents with a combination of valid drivers licenses and current registrations. At the end of the workshop – and getting very close to 3pm – it became apparent two of the parent helpers had not come back to help drive the kids back to school. Jolie, one of our educators, and I happily loaded some kids into our cars and dropped them off ourselves. But the frustration and embarrassment I saw on that principal’s face when she realised her class was stranded in the museum at home-time -  that’s engrained in my memory.

These are the silly little barriers that stand between us and being the best we can be for our community, and one by one, we’re determined to knock them down.

As I said though – this is not a problem only we are facing, and it would be great as a sector to be able to stand up and say “Look, this is a problem for the majority of schools. We have a solution. Here’s what’s required to make it happen. Can you help us?”

It’s also a problem that illustrates the complexity of the things we all do. A year ago, I wouldn’t have realised that a  law change that went through this month meaning that all children under 7 must be restrained when travelling in cars would make it harder for me to meet the commitments of our Ministry contract. I’ve found this job to be full of the unknown-unknowns – the things you never expected to have to deal with, from super-storms to a FOH person asking you whether they should keep on feeding a regular homeless visitor. These jobs are endlessly challenging, endlessly interesting, endlessly rewarding. My conclusion at the end of a year is that I have the best job in the world.

News Update 12 November 2013

Kia ora,

When the MA Board met in October, we again discussed the need for a museums publication. We have not published Te Ara: journal of Museums Aotearoa since 2010. There have been a number of suggestions and discussions about ways in which this gap could be filled, and the Board is keen to see how these could be developed. We would like interested members to take part in this discussion, and have set up an online forum topic so we can canvass your ideas. Please join the discussion here.

Auckland Museum has published its 2012/2013 Annual Report as an e-book. AWMM reports, among other successes, that it is continuing its commitment to environmental responsibility: “energy costs were cut a further 19% and we remain on track in the coming months to slash carbon emissions over the past three years by 40%”. This is a great achievement and we congratulate AWMM on leading by example. Maybe we’ll find out how they do it in their  Draft Annual Plan 2014/2015, due for publication in the coming weeks. We are also planning more discussion of energy saving at the MA14 conference, The Business of Culture with a session on how to reduce costs and be environmentally responsible.

Lottery WW1, Environment & Heritage last week announced the latest round of grants for WW100 projects.  The media release from Ministers Finlayson and Tremain outlines 30 projects receiving at total of $2.7million, including a good number of museums and galleries. Community Matters The grants range from $2,000 upwards to $506,233 and $630,633 for Waikato Museum and the Navy Museum respectively.  In addition, Te Papa scored $3.6 million from the ‘National Significant Pool’ for its multi-media WW1 exhibition. Congratulations to all the successful museums and galleries – we look forward to seeing some really exciting and innovative WW1 projects.

Museum of Wellington's  1913 waterfront strike parade.

Museum of Wellington’s 1913 waterfront strike parade.

Other media coverage has been positive and varied, including Museum of Wellington’s re-enactment of the 1913 waterfront strike. With protesters and some suitably dressed ‘Massey’s Cossacks’ on horseback, they attracted TV One and 3News, as well as print articles.

This week we have the last of our regional forums – Wednesday at Puke Ariki and Thursday at Te Awamutu Museum.  We are really enjoying meeting up with folk around the country, and appreciate the feedback and ideas you are sharing with us and with each other.  There are some regions that have missed out because of time – and weather – and we’ll be scheduling those and more in 2014.

Back in the office we’ve just received the latest MAQ from the printer.  It will be going out in the post to you in the next few days. And we’re working hard on updating our Directory information.  If you haven’t yet done so, please check your details in the online Museums Directory and let Jeremiah know of any changes.

Ngā mihi
Phillipa and Talei

Tītiro Whakamua – Guest post by Janeen Love

The tūī’s song is most gracious and meaningful when appreciated in its natural environment.  It’s not just a contrived composition for the white noise of daily activity. When you take time to listen, really listen to the tūī’s song, its exquisitely complex, uplifting and distinctive.

That’s how I can best summarise the kōrero and speaker’s presentations at this month’s Kāhui Kaitiaki hui: Tītiro Whakamua, at Kohupātiki Marae in Clive, Hawkes Bay – a chorus of tūī.

Rose Mohi (Ngāti Kahungunu), delivers the opening address.

Rose Mohi (Ngāti Kahungunu), delivers the opening address.

Kohupātiki Marae offered a familiar setting, and yet was a little at odds with how our respective institutes and organisations usually operate. Being home in the heartland of Ngāti Kahungunu was for me a personal highlight, and perhaps gave this tūī a special pitch, with tikanga Māori as the bass note. The manaakitanga extended to us by the hapu was impeccable, and enabled the rich conversations. The food that was prepared has set the benchmark very high; karengo and tī kōuka were a real treat. The Kāhui Kaitiaki organisation committee, Tryphena Cracknell and Bridget Reweti, should again be applauded, with recognition also for the support of Te Puni Kōkiri, Museums Aotearoa and National Services Te Paerangi.

Āwhina Twomey (Whanganui Regional Museum) questions Dr Sandy O’Sullivan (Wiradjuri, Australia) during our Skype conversation.

Āwhina Twomey (Whanganui Regional Museum) questions Dr Sandy O’Sullivan (Wiradjuri, Australia) during our Skype conversation.

As a collective, we are passionate about our mahi, and thoughtful about the issues that surface in our individual roles.  The refreshing point of difference in this environment was that we didn’t need to articulate historical issues for the unfamiliar. The marae was the natural environment and enabled us to avoid being distracted by the misinformed. The conversations were elevated from the pōwhiri to the poroporoaki. There were no excuses or explanations made for being Māori, speaking Māori, tikanga was not challenged and this enabled the kōrero to reach a very natural and exhilarating crescendo. The challenges that Māori sometimes face working in the museum sector were a given.  The song sheet was the same, no tuning required.

All of the presentations offered inspiration, highlighted the inter-connection of issues our sector faces and were solution-focused. It was evident we’ve reached a maturity in 2013, that has exciting implications, but that requires patience and conversation from all parties. We are all mindful of our tupuna who charted many of our pathways. We, as Kaitiaki Māori, are at the coal-face of a new way of thinking about how we present ourselves as Māori in this landscape. This is exciting.

Janneen Love (Auckland War Memorial Museum), Mark Sykes (Te Papa Tongarewa) and Migoto Eria (MTG Hawke’s Bay) after visiting the stunning Ūkaipō exhibition at newly opened MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Janneen Love (Auckland War Memorial Museum), Mark Sykes (Te Papa Tongarewa) and Migoto Eria (MTG Hawke’s Bay) after visiting the stunning Ūkaipō exhibition at newly opened MTG Hawke’s Bay.

If I could single out one presentation that has tuned this songbird, it was the presentation given by Leo Watson on ‘The key principles established by the WAI 262 claim concerning the preservation, protection and promotion of matauranga Māori, in all of its manifestations’. Leo’s presentation, along with working definitions and ‘Kaitiakianga framework for discussion’ document, were generous and practical guides for traversing this profound and important claim that currently sits with The Crown.



Returning to Tāmaki and its urban soundscapes, I am mindful of my pitch and aware of the great potential for harmonies with the many manu.  All the time I am mindful of how sweet the sound of tūī is in their natural environment.



Janeen Love
Exhibition Developer
Auckland War Memorial Museum

News Update 30 October 2013

Kia ora,

New Mayors and Councils are being sworn in around the country this week. There have been quite a few changes, and lots of local news stories about what both returning councillors and ‘new brooms’ are planning. We are in the process of developing an information pamphlet about New Zealand’s museums and galleries which we will be sending to all councils. We hope your council has changed for the better, and that you make the time to engage with them and to show your representatives the great work that you do.

Advocacy, networking, resourcing and information are some of the recurring topics in our current regional forums.  We are hearing really interesting ideas and discussions, and everyone who participates has told us how useful it is just to get together with colleagues from down the road. We appreciate your feedback on our activities as well as more general topics, and will be incorporating your ideas  into our planning or passing them on to others as appropriate.

 Tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with just a few of SMAG's lively youngsters

Tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with just a few of SMAG’s lively youngsters

Last week Talei and I were in Invercargill and Dunedin. Highlights included handling a tub of remarkably frisky young tuatara with curator Lindsay Hazley at Southland Museum and Art Gallery, visiting Te Hikoi in Riverton, and a chance to explore the wonderful Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, hosts for our Dunedin forum. There are some more photos on our Facebook page. I was also at the ICOM New Zealand conference and appreciated the presentations from Simon Knell of Leicester University and from three of our own recent museum studies graduates about their collections-based research.

This Friday Eric Dorfman and I will be at the opposite end of the country, hosted by the Northland Museums Association at Dargaville Museum. We’re looking forward to catching up with the folk up north.  Next up are Taranaki (New Plymouth) and Waikato (Te Awamutu) on 13 and 14 November. See our website for more details of regional meetings.

Back in the office we’ve contracted Jeremiah Boniface to work on checking our database and preparing the 2014 Directory. We have one more issue of MAQ coming out in the next couple of weeks, and an extra MA Board meeting in November as well.

By that time we’ll be racing towards the end of the year, with the National Digital Forum another major Wellington event.  NDF has a fantastic lineup of speakers and sessions at Te Papa on 26 and 27 November, and some other workshops and events before/after – it’s not too late to register.

If you’re in Wellington for NDF you could also support Arts Access Aotearoa, buy some art or other bargains – and possibly win a luxurious break away in Queenstown. The Awesome Arts Access Auction is on Wednesday 27 November, 6pm to 8pm at CQ Hotels Wellington, 223 Cuba St, Wellington. Tickets are only $25 and include live music from members of the Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra, a drink on arrival (followed by great drink specials) and canapés. There will also be door prizes and excellent networking opportunities. Contact Gemma Williamson by email or call (04) 802 4349.

And we love to hear from our members, so if you can’t get to one of our meetings, or just want to chat, please give us a call on 04 499 1313 or send us an email.

Ngā mihi

Do Digital Māori Dream of Virtual Marae? – Guest Post by Nikolas Brocklehurst

Kia ora,

digital marae

Marae depicted is ‘Wharenui’ by Ɲ

Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) post-apocalyptic tale explores questions of how we deal with technology and if we are able to bestow it the same values that we ourselves (attempt to) uphold. Now, we may not be quite at that level of philosophical conundrum but we are  integrating technologies  into our existence like never before.

The Internet is such a technology; once seen as something separate from our ‘real’ lives, today more and more of us seem as if we are  incapable of living our ‘real’ lives without it.

In Aotearoa, Māori are leading the digital charge in a number of ways, including mobile Internet uptake and social networking. There has been a considerable amount of research into Māori use of the Internet over the years. Early on, these focused on establishing an authentic presence online predicated on Māori taking an authoritative role. In part, this was to address the misinformation and misappropriation that was occurring. But more so, it was also to stake a claim for Māori in the global digital landscape. More recent developments have sought to transfer Māori values and practices into the digital realm, transforming the online space to fit Māori knowledge and needs, rather than the other way round. This research has produced and recognised numerous successful initiatives and programmes. However, they have also highlighted the challenges faced when transferring cultural practices and values on to the Internet. This has proved particularly so for items placed in the public forum such as those on museum and gallery websites, which may attract a global audience that are not necessarily aware of culturally appropriate actions.

My name is Nikolas Brocklehurst and I am currently undertaking a Masters in Visual and Material Culture, Massey University Wellington. My thesis, entitled, Māori Culture at the digital interface: A study of the visual portrayal of cultural identity in the online environment, is set to examine how Māori cultural identity is being expressed visually online and if the use of digital technologies has enabled new ways to articulate Māori identity. By looking at the way Māori are visually portraying their culture online I am attempting to find the space were both culture and the technology have come to terms with each other. By examining Māori visual culture in digital realms, I ask how have Māori practices and values been influenced, and how have digital technologies been integrated into Māori visual culture.

The purpose of this study is to gather a picture of how Māori are portraying themselves and to use this information to inform museological practice. Now, Māori are far from a homogeneous group, and I will not attempt to create an all-encompassing vision. Rather, I aim to capture a moment in time for a number of individuals when the Internet is increasingly becoming an authentic place for Māori cultural identity.

In order to help me achieve this I have written an online questionnaire, Ipurangi Māoritanga regarding Māori experiences and practices on the Internet. Additionally, as part of my research I would like to bring together a number of focus groups and discuss the issues, benefits, challenges and successes of using the Internet as a place cultural practice.

Nga mihi

News Update 15 October 2013

Kia ora

We’ve been out and about over the last few weeks, enjoying meeting up with many MA members and other colleagues at regional forums.  This week we’re looking forward to Whanganui on Wednesday and Wellington on Friday, when the MA Board also meets.  Next week we’ll be in Invercargill and Dunedin, including the ICOM New Zealand conference 25-26 October. See detailed listings below and please RSVP so we can set up rooms and catering.  If you can’t get to any of the meetings, we’re always happy to hear from you by telephone or email.
Last weekend over 30 Kaitiaki Maori gathered in Hawke’s Bay for the Titiro Whakamua hui. Despite some rain as people arrived on Friday, we were given a bright and cheerful welcome by the tangata whenua at Kohupatiki Marae near Clive, which has recently celebrated its centenary.
Tourism 2025 was launched at the recent Tourism Summit at Te Papa. This new tourism plan is being developed by TIANZ.
Its focus has five interelated themes:
  • Prioritise insight to drive and track progress – this is about using data and research to predict and evaluate initiatives and trend, and informs the next four areas
  • Grow sustainable air connectivity – find ways to get more international visitors here at attractive rates, grow emerging markets, and allow people to travel around the country easily
  • Target for value – understand key market segments and make sure our offerings are tailored to their needs
  • Drive value through outstanding visitor experience – remove barriers and ensure tourist satisfaction
  • Focus on productivity for profit – get the best value out of the resources we put into tourism products, eg by extending seasonality and availability
TIA CE Martin Snedden says this is only the beginning: “We are now focused on creating and obtaining industry endorsement for the actions that will bring Tourism 2025 to life. The actions we endorse must be pragmatic, affordable and valuable. We are not looking to create a huge list of actions that will stretch over 12 years. We recognise that we are operating in a fast-changing global and domestic tourism environment. The actions will have a short focus – one to three years – with scope for all tourism industry players, from the biggest corporates to SMEs, to play their part.”
Museums Aotearoa has provided information to the Tourism 2025 team, and will be making a further submission promoting the recognition of cultural tourism in this process.
Presentations from the Summit can be accessed on the TIA website.
Announcement of Simon Denny as NZ’s Venice Biennale artist for 2015
Announcement of NDF Board elections: new (and re-elected) NDF Board members:
  1. Matthew Oliver, from Manatu Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage
  2. Mike Kmiec, from Victoria University of Wellington
  3. Jan Gow, from FamNet / Lets Research
  4. Leith Haarhoff, from Palmerston North City Library and Community Services
  5. Steven Fox, from Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra
And we’re intrigued by a notice of an innovative event next week at the Museum of Wellington: the Do It Yourself Science Museum – a whole museum contained within a pizza box. This is an interactive and entertaining exploration of science and story, presented by Michele Fontana, a PhD student of Theatre and Museum Studies at Victoria University, who has won an Italian national acting contest. Two free shows only, on Wednesday 23 October. Bookings: 04 472 8904 or email.  We’ll be in Palmerston North that day, so if you go to this, please let us know how it goes!
Ngā mihi
Phillipa and Talei

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