Archive for the 'Guest Blogs' Category

Maddy on the Marae – by Maddy Jones

In March 2014 I spent my first weekend on a marae. It was awesome. The hospitality that my group and I received when we stayed on the Hongoeka marae near Plimmerton was completely overwhelming. So when I was offered the chance to stay on the Pukemokimoki marae during the MA14 conference in Napier I jumped at the chance. This was slightly more scary because I didn’t know anyone else staying there, but I needn’t have worried. When I arrived the group staying was mostly assembled, sharing a meal which they quickly made a space for me at. It was a lovely evening and a lovely way to kick off conference.Pukemokimoki Marae

The rest of the week flew by and I loved coming back to the marae at the end of the day. The wonderful Rhonda Paku was our designated driver who made sure we were on time in the mornings and made it back safely in the evening. Being in an unknown city it was great to have someone who knew where we were going and being with other people made the whole experience more of an adventure than a trial. During the conference networking times I had a built-in bunch of friendly faces as I became acquainted with the others staying on the marae, and always had people to share a meal with, while at the venue and back at the marae.

Some of theMaddy Marae best discussions I took part in happened in the van, in our sleeping bags or brushing teeth in the morning. The informal atmosphere and the fact that you’ve seen everyone in their pyjamas made it feel like I really got to know people, even though it was only for a few days. The warm and social atmosphere made conference more fun, and made going home in the evening feel like going home, rather than going back to a cold hotel room. One of my favourite moments during the week in Napier happened on the marae when someone got out their guitar and a huge number of waiata were sung to try and pick some for the ceremonies of the following day. Singing and listening along to a group of wonderful singers was a treat, I learnt new waiata, and it all added to the friendly cosy atmosphere of the stay.

Staying on the marae was heaps of fun, I learned a lot and it saved me some pennies. So for all of you looking for accommodation options for MA15 all you need is a sleeping bag and some ear plugs, and I’ll see you there!

Maddy Jones

 

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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

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?)

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing your Homework by Chanelle Carrick

Maintaining relationships with local artists is a key part of the Pictorial Collection Curator’s role. How would you go about fostering those important connections?

This was not the worst interview question I’ve been asked. In fact, as an emerging museum professional (EMP) the answer seemed simple at the time. But fast-forward six weeks to a new job at Puke Ariki and a new city where I knew nothing about the local art scene and I was suddenly hit with the size of that task.

Home Work Opening (Image courtesy of Puke Ariki and Lavamedia)

Home Work Opening (Image courtesy of Puke Ariki and Lavamedia)

My situation also involved another kind of EMP: the established museum professional. My predecessor still works at Puke Ariki, now as a manager. During her lengthy stint as curator she worked tirelessly to establish and nurture relationships not only with local artists but also between the artists themselves. She initiated regular ‘artist meet-ups’ and maintains a database of artists with whom she is in regular contact. Her passion for the cause is inspirational, and she has built an impressive audience for Puke Ariki. As she has really put in the hard yards those crucial networks were already in place when I arrived. But as the new curator I faced a particular challenge. How do I maintain those connections? How do I form new ones? And how do I become the ‘go-to’ person in place of the previous curator when she’s still around?

Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

Image courtesy of Puke Ariki

The answers to these questions came in the form of an exhibition called Home Work: Taranaki Art Now. Developed in response to the artistic community’s desire to share their work with the region, the show aimed to strengthen relationships with that community. I inherited my role as co-curator (along with former colleague Charlotte Stace and local artists Dale Copeland and Wayne Morris) from my predecessor, and began work on it almost from day one. We put the call out to all Taranaki artists to submit up to three pieces for consideration. The response was phenomenal: we received over 460 submissions from just over 200 artists! Over several days the curators chose 95 works that represented the breadth of creative practices in what was clearly a highly active art scene.

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

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

I then worked with other staff and artists to write labels, co-ordinate events, develop PLAYnes (an interactive artwork involving paper planes!) and a street art mural within the museum, and promote the show. It was an exciting opportunity to talk with artists en masse and to get myself known in the community. The exhibition also coincided with the inaugural Taranaki Arts Trail, which gave me the chance to visit artists in their studios and to talk with them about their practice. The whole experience was invaluable in helping develop my own connections and in reinforcing relationships with Puke Ariki. After all, artists are essential to the vitality of our communities, and for museums and galleries it’s crucial to maintain productive links with the people who could be your strongest supporters or your loudest critics.

Home Work opening (Image courtesy of Puke Ariki and Lavamedia)

Home Work opening (Image courtesy of Puke Ariki and Lavamedia)

So, what if you don’t have a regional art exhibition to curate? The simple answer is get out there. Do your homework! Find out who your predecessor’s key contacts were and meet them for coffee. Visit open studios. Attend exhibition openings and talk to people instead of loitering around the nibbles. It can be difficult, especially if you’re an introvert like me. But the effort you put into those relationships will be rewarded with support for your institution, unexpected opportunities, and if your region is anything like Taranaki, the chance to meet some incredibly warm and generous people.

Chanelle Carrick,
Poutiaki Kohinga Whakaahua | Curator Pictorial Collections, Puke Ariki

 

Home Work: Taranaki Art Now was supported by the TSB Community Trust and New Plymouth District Creative Communities NZ

Support services for the GLAM sector by Tamara Patten

Before I started working in museums, I had a vague idea that a day in the life of a museum worker might involve quietly perusing a shelf of objects, selecting some to put in a display case, then perhaps a bit of dusting. All this would be done whilst wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches, naturally.

Obviously, as I learned quickly, there is much more to it than that. And we certainly don’t emerge from a museum studies course knowing everything there is to know about caring for a collection, interpreting content, managing museum finances, or running a brilliant public programme. So when you’re curating a new exhibition, or have a water damaged diary to deal with for the first time, how do you find out what to do? For emerging (and sometimes for well-established) museum professionals it can be hard to know where to go for advice.

Get advice on caring for collections and taonga

Get advice on caring for collections and taonga. Photo: Te Papa

Working for National Services Te Paerangi, I’m lucky enough to have a fairly good handle on this. So I thought it might be helpful if I wrote something about where museum professionals can find help and advice – a summary of outreach and support agencies for the GLAM sector.

 

Museums Aotearoa

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Museums Aotearoa, as you’ll already know, is the professional membership body for the museum sector. Museums Aotearoa provides advocacy and a representative voice for the sector. They host discussion forums on their website, conduct sector research, provide an up-to-date museums directory, and are the place to go if you want to find (or advertise) a job in a New Zealand museum. They also deliver networking events and the museum sector’s annual conference (the next one is in Dunedin in May 2015).

Contact Museums Aotearoa on mail@museumsaotearoa.org.nz

 

National Services Te Paerangi

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National Services Te Paerangi works throughout New Zealand in partnership with museums, galleries and iwi, offering a range of practical and strategic programmes aimed at strengthening and building capacity in the sector. NSTP provides museum-related training, small funding grants, online and hardcopy resources, and advice. Regionally-based Museum and Iwi Development Officers can provide on-site, face to face support for your organisation. NSTP is particularly good at making connections between people with a need, and experts who can help.

Contact National Services Te Paerangi on natserv@tepapa.govt.nz or freephone 0508 NSTP HELP

 

NSTP and NPO paper conservation workshop

NSTP and NPO paper conservation workshop. Photo: Te Papa.


Archives New Zealand

Archives NZ logoArchives New Zealand provides training and guidance around working with archives and managing records and information. They can assist with queries around subjects like digitising records, retention and disposal of archives, community archives, and working with the Public Records Act 2005. Later this year they will be launching a new website – Records Toolkit – which will be packed with resources to help with archives and record management. Keep an eye out for it!

Contact Archives New Zealand on rkadvice@dia.govt.nz

 

National Library of New Zealand

Alexander Turnbull Library Master Logo   Two Colour_47919The Alexander Turnbull Library Outreach Services team includes the National Preservation Office. The NPO can help iwi, organisations and individuals with advice on caring for books, archives, photographs, sound recordings and art works. They have a variety of excellent resources online, and can be contacted for advice and assistance. They also hold training workshops on preservation and conservation. Also part of Outreach Services are two oral history advisers who run workshops and provide advice on capturing oral histories.

The National Library is also the home of DigitalNZ. DigitalNZ offers a series of useful online guides to anyone seeking advice on digitising material.

Contact the National Library on information@natlib.govt.nz, the National Preservation Office on preservation@dia.govt.nz, and DigitalNZ on info@digitalnz.org

NSTP digital photography for iwi workshop

NSTP digital photography for iwi workshop. Photo: Te Papa


Job-specific groups

It is also possible to get support and advice by joining a network of people doing a similar job to you. Here is non-exhaustive list of some of the established museum sector groups you could consider joining:

 

Finally, connecting with other local museums is a great way to find support. Time to arrange that coffee date with the friendly person at the museum in the next suburb or town!

Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi

Learning to prize what is of value – by Kamaya Crawford

It has been three years since I left the NZ Police Museum and in that time I shifted to the West Coast and Nelson, worked for Local Government as the lead writer and communicator for a Long Term Plan and moved to my current role in Internal Affairs as a Community Advisor.

Internal Affairs serves and connects people, communities and government to build a safe, prosperous and respected nation and my role as a community advisor has allowed me to use all my skills and knowledge across the community to help make a difference.

I enjoyed hearing Dr Ganesh Nana at the Museums Aotearoa Conference this year talk about the importance of language. In my working travels I have collected the languages of museums, Police, Public Service, Local Government, community development, accountability, communications, funding, auditing, community engagement, social services and policy. Often people talk past each other speaking their own language.

Agreement about what you mean is vitally important to expressing the value of your organisations and what you are contributing and producing for the community.KamayaDuring my time in the museum world some of you know how I struggled with the desire to describe and quantify the intangible benefits of the museum. Learning and using Police language produced satisfying results and confirmed to me the vital importance of language and alignment with your stakeholders. All of a sudden they could see the relevance of the institution and how it fitted with them. Their purpose was our purpose.

The Government programme Better Public Services is the response to producing better outcomes for New Zealanders. It is important to Government that we address complex long-term issues to deliver better results for New Zealanders. One Agency or person cannot achieve this alone. A good example of this approach is the NZ road toll. The outcome or result we want is that New Zealanders are safe on the road. The indicator is the lower road toll.

How can organisations express their contribution to wider social outcomes? It’s pretty easy – just use Results Based Accountability. RBA™ was invented by Mark Friedman. He saw all the good work in the community and was concerned nobody knew if any of that good work actually made a difference. “Trying Hard is Not Good Enough” is the name of his first book on the subject and well worth reading.

His model was picked up by Ministry of Social Development and now RBA reporting is a requirement for all MSD Contracts. In the Nelson region we are supporting MSD by becoming RBA trainers.

RBA focuses on three questions:

How much did we do?

How well did we do it?

Is anyone better off?

RBA does this by looking at two things, the performance of your organisation and its services and secondly, the contribution the organisation makes to a wider outcome that benefits a whole population.

Recently I have been working with Nelson Provincial Museum and Marlborough Museum and I’m looking forward to reporting back later in the year about how RBA and broader work on value in the cultural sector are making an impact here. There is no greater thing an organisation can do then ask itself “Why am I here?” RBA can help focus you on what’s important to your organisation and to the community. It can help you articulate your value powerfully and with authenticity.

Kamaya Crawford
Community Advisor | Community Operations
The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua

Designing mystery: a case study of exhibition specific graphic design – by Serena Siegenthaler-Brown

In May, MTG Hawke’s Bay opened an exhibition that explored the story of the Forerunners, an alternative spiritualist group who were active in Havelock North in the early twentieth century. The community’s head, Dr Robert Felkin, was a medical doctor, missionary and “influential leader in one of the world’s most important occult orders.” (www.mtghawkesbay.com) This exciting exhibition lent itself to a creative suite of graphic design output that drew on the mystery and intrigue of the characters and content.

The first mission was to create an exhibition identity consisting of a colour scheme, logo and set fonts. Contained within the content of the exhibition was the perfect source of inspiration: a seven-sided vault, contained within a temple underneath Dr Felkins Havelock North home, Whare Ra. The vault was painted with a brilliant array of colours, shapes and symbols.

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I worked with the MTG Exhibition Designer to select a bold colour palette from these walls, one that would work well with the paint colour selected for the exhibition space.

The logo was created using these colours, the seven-sided star and triangle pattern found on the roof of the vault, as well as a font that echoed one found on the spine of a book originally owned by Dr Felkin. The logo also included a digitised version of three handwritten words found in an original copy of the Forerunners journal.

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The challenge was to create an identity that could create a sense of intrigue and mystery in advertising in order to generate interest in the exhibition, while still being applicable to more utilitarian uses such as exhibition labels and information panels.  Typography was used as the link between the bolder marketing graphics and the labeling and panels within the exhibition itself.

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To give a sense of continuity throughout the exhibition all the titles were treated in the same manner, as a graphic rather than simply text. This approach tied together the range of different graphic elements, from large scale illustrations and thematic panels printed directly onto MDF wall panels, to extended object labels mounted in cases.

The exhibition was broken down into four sections and each had a unique colour scheme to help clearly differentiate it from the next. This colour scheme was carried across different mediums from large MDF panels to vinyl and transluscent labeling. The use of consistent fonts and stylised titles held these sections together.

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This project had a broad scope for bold creativity and vibrant colour schemes in response to the content and was great fun to work on (and hopefully also to view).

Serena Siegenthaler-Brown
Graphic Design Assistant, MTG Hawke’s Bay.
Photographs by David Frost

 


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