Archive for June, 2014

News Update, 24 June 2014

Kia ora

Congratulations to the Air Force Museum and Rotorua Museum. The Air Force Museum’s new wing was one of 64 finalists in 10 categories at the 2014 Property Industry Awards. They earned an award of excellence and won best in category for tourism and leisure property. The judging process involved inspections and assessments that considered all aspects of each project from the design and construction phase, the innovation and vision evident through to the financial performance, user satisfaction and environmental impact and seismic rating of the completed development – a deserved recognition for both the museum and architects Warren and Mahoney.

Rotorua Minecraft

MINECRAFT MASTERMIND: Alex Pace (right) with his Minecraft creation of the Rotorua Museum. He is pictured with brother Nathan. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Rotorua Museum has added to its success in the NZ Museum Awards with another four awards in the past year: Best Direct Marketing Campaign with The Edge in the national radio awards for last year’s same-sex wedding promotion; Hospitality Excellence Award in the Rotorua Business Excellence Awards; a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award; and their 80-strong team of volunteer guides were runners-up in the 2013 Trustpower Spirit of Rotorua Community Award. They have also been in the news for a minecraft replica.

The news lately has had a lot about museums. As well as the good news – such as capital grants totaling $4.1m to museums in Akaroa, Chatham Islands and Waitangi – there has been criticism of Te Papa and MTG Hawke’s Bay. In the case of MTG, it stems from a report commissioned by the Napier City Council, which was to investigate “the level of present revenue and expenditure performance” and “unexpected results from the redevelopment, especially insufficient storage…” The Independent Review attempts to benchmark MTG’s performance, and propose ‘rescue remedies’, Being commissioned by council, it does not address the expectation gap between the previous council’s plans of 3+ years ago, and the new council’s current agenda. However, the council is ‘looking forward to a positive future for MTG Hawke’s Bay’, so as long as they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and the media don’t do too much damage to their public reputation, we’re hopeful that will be the case.

One of the consultants who had worked on the McDermott Miller review of MTG Hawke’s Bay was Michael Volkerling. Known to many in the museum and gallery world in his past roles at the Arts Council, the Museum of New Zealand project, as well as his academic and cultural policy work, Michael had attended our MA14 conference in Napier. Sadly, Michael passed away unexpectedly earlier this month at his home in Sydney. A service was held for him at Wellington’s Old St Paul’s today, where he was remembered fondly by his family, friends and colleagues.

Police Museum Director Rowan Carroll in their new armoury

Police Museum Director Rowan Carroll in their new armoury

This a quieter time of year for us here at MA, so last Friday afternoon we got out of the office for some visits. We took a quick look at the excellent exhibitions on at Pataka (we particularly enjoyed Fiona Pardington’s EREWHON: Left for Dead in The Field of Dreams) and then carried on to the Police Museum to check out their new storage. This project has carved all sorts of useful space out of a rather inflexible building and brought their facilities up to environmentally acceptable standard. On our way back in to town we also stopped in at NZ Micrographics and got a full tour of the fascinating giant scanners and cool things they do – give them a call if you’re in the area.

Andy Fenton and Sheryl Sporle-Fahey showing Phillipa Tocker and Lillian Bayly-McCredie around NZMS

Andy Fenton and Sheryl Sporle-Fahey showing Phillipa Tocker and Lillian Bayly-McCredie around NZMS

A Washington Post Blog reported last week that there are more museums in the US than there are McDonalds and Starbucks combined. We ran the stats and discovered the same is true here. In fact there are more museums (c450) in New Zealand than there are McDonalds, Starbucks, KFCs and Burger Kings combined (332) – fast culture, not fast food!

Ngā mihi,
Phillipa and Talei

 

iPads and Coconuts by Aaron Compton

I’ve been looking at trends in museum education. It’s a pretty specialised role and in New Zealand there is a very small community of us, so I like to think it’s easy for us to set our own trends. For instance I just noticed that Te Papa is doing light painting for Matariki this year.

Hell, at Tairawhiti Museum we’ve been doing that since 2011. I’m a trendsetter.

Sophie: This girl disappeared down a wormhole, leaving only her shape on the wall behind her. But really we waved lights behind this girl to get her silhouette, she stepped away and we shone a torch on the ngatu where she had been standing

Sophie: This girl disappeared down a wormhole, leaving only her shape on the wall behind her. But really we waved lights behind this girl to get her silhouette, she stepped away and we shone a torch on the ngatu where she had been standing

Light painting is an activity with a definite WOW factor for children, teachers and parents. Take a dark room, a webcam hooked up to a long-exposure app and a big screen, some pretty light sticks and torches in different colours, add a group of excitable children and you’ve got some fun times ahead. You can draw in the air and make freaky portraits and the results appear in real time on the big screen; you can then print them out or give them to the teacher as .JPGs.

This is the kind of museopunk thing I love (check out museopunks.org ). It stemmed from me wanting a hands on activity to go with the graffiti art exhibition we had, but not wanting to mess with spray paint fumes in our enclosed classroom space, or to have to explain to parents why I was teaching their children to be vandals.

Tagging: A budding graffiti artist writes his tag in the air. No paint, no fumes, no clean up.

Tagging: A budding graffiti artist writes his tag in the air. No paint, no fumes, no clean up.

There is a lot of high tech stuff I and other museum folk dream of doing. iPads, wifi through all the galleries, location awareness, all that good, expensive stuff. I don’t have a budget for iPads. What I can afford though is coconuts.

Back in 2012 when the Transit of Venus was all we could talk about here in Tairawhiti, I was thinking about navigation. I wanted those iPads but instead my mind went to what I had heard called a ‘starpeeker’– a coconut shell with holes drilled at certain places to align with stars. I wasn’t sure how it worked but the idea appealed.

So I did a mash up of this Polynesian navigation device with a European one – a map. I made 15 maps of our gallery space and on each one put 2 different coloured footprints. Each map goes with a specific, numbered, starpeeker coconut with 2 sets of holes colour coded to the footprints on the map. When a pair of students find the exact right spot in the gallery where the footprints on their map should be, they can look up through the starpeeker and find the right coloured star in the rafters. When all is aligned correctly an arrow on the starpeeker points them in the direction of a certain taonga, and they have to answer a question about that taonga. Phew.

Children at Tairawhiti Museum use a mashup of European and Polynesion navigation techniques to find their way through the gallery.

Children at Tairawhiti Museum use a mashup of European and Polynesion navigation techniques to find their way through the gallery.

It was hugely complicated to set up but worth it – children really have to think to succeed with this and teachers love it, it aligns with a lot of NZ Curriculum stars.

Wifi? No. Location awareness? YES!

High tech is trending highly but hands on activities will always be in style. The low tech backlash starts here. Go and buy some coconuts!

Aaron Compton
Education Officer, Tairawhiti Museum

 

The Business of Culture – Keynotes

We finally have the videos of the keynotes from MA14.

For those out there who missed the conference the theme was ‘The Business of Culture’ and focused on the ways museums can use the language and tools of business and entrepreneurship to ensure their survival without losing their cultural soul.

First up Kate Clark, Heritage Consultant talks about Competition, Cooperation and Community.

Next we have Laura Wright, the CEO of Tate Enterprises discussing Revenue.

Our final keynote of the conference was Ganesh Nana, Chief Economist at BERL and his talk on Proving our Value.

News Update 12 June, 2014

Having just come back from Australia, I have been thinking about New Zealand museums and galleries in relation to international issues. It seems that there are some common threads, especially the focus on ethics and standards, and communicating the various forms of ‘value’ that museums and galleries contribute – cultural, creative, economic, amenity, social, educational etc.

At MA14, Auckland Museum presented research they have undertaken with Auckland Council to measure the Social Return On Investment (SROI) for the Moana – My Ocean exhibition. This paper has now been peer reviewed and published, showing a dollar value for SROI.  We expect to have videos of the MA14 keynote speakers, including Ganesh Nana’s exploration of economic and other ‘value’ on our website next week.

In Australia there has recently been publicity about dubious provenance of items acquired by museums. The National Gallery of Australia is embroiled in an international legal battle after it was found that an item it had bought from a New York based dealer Art of the Past was in fact stolen. It has subsequently come out that the NGA bought several million dollars worth of items from this dealer, as did other major museums internationally. A meeting of the four peak museum sector organisations in Australia has issued a joint statement on ethics in collecting to highlight the importance of due diligence and maintaining the highest possible ethical standards.

In China, the museum-building spree is running into problems with fakes. According to state media, 299 new establishments registered last year, but fakes are said to be rife in its antiques market. Police shut down the Lucheng museum, in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, after finding almost a third of the 8,000 items on display were not genuine. Counterfeits on show included a sword touted as dating from the Qing Dynasty and worth 120 million yuan (£11m), the report said.

The local news has been mixed, with the struggling Katikati Museum closing, and minimal damage from a potentially disastrous fire at Waikato Museum. Coincidentally, we had a fire evacuation drill at the MA office this week.  When did you last have a fire drill? Do you hold them regularly?

Kiwi North has secured $370k from Lotteries towards its $700k stage 2 development, Lopdell House is on track to open later this year as Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, and in Ashburton locals have flocked to an open day to in the new museum and art gallery building ahead of fitout for opening later this year.

Curator Tryphena Cracknell at a floor talk for Momo Kauae: Moko Kauae in Contemporary Art

More good news stories include kuia featuring in exhibitions at Aratoi (Kuia: Kiri Riwai-Couch) and HCAG (Momo Kauae: Moko Kauae in Contemporary Art), the Sarjeant Gallery reopening in its temporary premises on Sarjeant on the Quay, and the new extension at Tairawhiti Museum has opened.

Creative New Zealand is consulting on a review of its support for visual and craft/object art, with responses due on Wednesday 25 June.  This is an important opportunity to have a say on the structure which affects how funding is distributed, and how.  A number of museum and gallery professionals took part int he focus groups whcih preceded the darfts reports which are now out for response. MA will be making a response, and we encourgae all who have an interest in Creative NZ’s craft/objecta dn visual art forms to read them and respond.  If you want to feed into MA’s response, please let us know by Friday 20 June.

And a reminder that ICOM New Zealand is calling for abstracts for the Pacific Connections conference in Auckland, 22-23 September 2014, which will focus on Pacific museum collections and research. Abstracts are due on 16 June 2014. Proposals for the 2014 National Digital Forum are also due on 16 June.

Ngā mihi,
Phillipa and Talei

Between fact and fiction – by Jamie Bell

I recently discovered Museum Hack, a New York company providing independent, alternate tours of the Met and the Museum of Natural History. Museum Hack describe their tours as being fast-paced, interactive and filled with stories, gossip and games. This concept inspired me to lay down the challenge to our Wellington Emerging Museum Professionals (EMPs) for someone to ‘hack’ an exhibit in one of our city’s museums or galleries. In the end, it fell to me to lead the way.

I decided to take aim at the Museum of Wellington’s Telling Tales exhibit. Telling Tales has always been one of my favourite museum exhibits because it places stories as its central focus. These stories create a space that encourages visitors to connect on their own level and through their own experiences. Embracing these unique connections, and in the spirit of Museum Hack, I decided to make it a truly alternative tour which took the history of Wellington and presented it through a completely different lens.

Mt Victoria Protest

In the early 1920s, the Wellington City Council unveiled plans for a tunnel through Mt. Victoria near the Basin Reserve. While debated raged within the Council over the exact location and design of the tunnel, public outrage and condemnation grew. The most outspoken members of the city formed a group called Save The Basin in an attempt to stop the development and protect the city’s heart, the Basin Reserve. After years of consultation and hearings, the tunnel was rejected and the development of Wellington moved away from the eastern suburbs and headed towards the Kapiti Coast.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a true story. But it isn’t too far away from one. It’s always struck me that one of the fascinating things about history is just how insignificant the triggers can be that lead to the moments we celebrate. While museums focus on the objects, people and moments that the writers of history tell us about, there is value in exploring the alternatives, the could’ve beens. After all, it’s a fine line between fact and fiction.

Exploring that fine line became the basis for my own ‘museum hack’. Using the real life stories and objects of Wellington’s past from within Telling Tales, my tour created a new past that was plausible, thought-provoking, and, almost 100%, made up. While the tour itself was a success, the real value in it was what came after. Our little gathering of EMPs sat down over a coffee and a beer to debrief the experience. Within the group people offered their own alternative histories, moments of change and experiences with the vagaries of writing history. To me, that’s the value of museums: it’s not always about reality, but it is always about inquiry, discussion and enjoyment.

Ab Fab Welly

1990 saw the launch of Absolutely Positively Wellington as a marketing campaign for the city. While the public rejected the concept and it was shelved, there were several Wellington City Council members who were looking for an opportunity to relaunch it. In 1992, a surprising opportunity arose in the form of a British television comedy show. Absolutely Fabulous was a smash hit for comedians Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, especially here in New Zealand. Off the back of the show’s popularity, Wellington City Council relaunched their brand as Absolutely Fabulously Wellington. For the next decade, French & Saunders acted as spokes-‘sweeties’ for the city, appearing in countless advertising campaigns and at local events.

Jamie Bell
Director, NZ Cricket Museum

 

 

 


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