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News Update, 5 August 2014

Kia ora

Our thoughts go out to the whanau and colleagues of Natalie Cadenhead, who passed away last week after a short illness. Natalie will be known to many through her work in Christchurch with Antarctica New Zealand and as Curator of Antarctic and Canterbury Social History at Canterbury Museum. Natalie was more recently working for CERA as Advisor, Cultural Recovery. The large number of both current and past museum staff at her farewell was a real indication of the high regard in which she was held.

This week we are all remembering the start of World War One, and the four years of turmoil it brought not only to the places where it was fought, but also the people in New Zealand and other places whose lives were forever changed by the ‘Great War’. There are so many museum, gallery and other cultural and community activities happening around the country that we can’t possibly list them. A few that caught our attention are the 100-gun salute in Wellington yesterday, Auckland Museum’s centenary launch weekend, the collaborative Great War Stories videos being aired on TV3 at 6.30pm this week, and NSTP’s All That Remains website.

August 1 marked the launch of New Zealand’s new, integrated audiovisual archive, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is the operating name for the New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua Me Ngā Taonga Kōrero. The archive was formed by the amalgamation of the collections and staff of the New Zealand Film Archive; the Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero; and the Television New Zealand Archive. New Zealand’s film, television and radio collections have been brought together within the new organisation, where they will be cared for by specialist staff and in dialogue with each other tell richer stories about our country and its peoples. Read more about the new archive here.

Today we have been stuffing envelopes with the August Museums Aotearoa Quarterly – a bumper 28-page issue with all sorts of articles around the theme of ‘people’ – visitors, communities, public programmes, exhibitions, politics and opinion.

The MA Board is meeting in Wellington this Thursday, 7 August. As well as planning for MA15 and beyond, we will be conducting a new sector survey. Coming up is a series of regional meetings during October and November – look out for these and plan to meet up with colleagues in museums and galleries near you to share ideas and inspiration.


Nā Phillipa māua ko 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 ). 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


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 August 27, 2013

Kia ora,

Wen Powles, Puawai Cairns and Vera Mey shared some fascinating insights at a museums and galleries session of the annual Diversity Forum yesterday in Wellington. Chair Courtney Johnston introduced and teased out their personal and professional perspectives: St Paul St’s Vera as ‘the Asian curator’; Te Papa Curator Māori Puawai negotiating the territory of mana taonga both internally and externally; and Wen developing a international strategy for and with Te Papa. They talked about the complexity of the issues they are dealing with. What is ‘the’ Māori cultural norm, or ‘the’ Asian, when there are not only ethnic differences, but also generational, political and attitudinal as well, just as there are among any group of individuals?

An interesting case was explored through Puawai’s negotiations to acquire a gang patch for Te Papa’s contemporary Māori culture collection – working with gang members to explain her reasons, and the process of ‘earning’ as opposed to purchasing a patch for the collection. Rowan Carrol from the Police Museum noted that their collection includes a number of gang patches, each with very specific provenance, and that exhibiting them is another story entirely!  Thanks to Ian Wards, currently working with NSTP, for making all the arrangements for this forum.

Last week Statistics NZ released the International Visitor Arrival Statistics for the year ended July 2013. Key facts:

  • 2.647 million visitor arrivals
  • up 1 per cent from the July 2012 year (boosted by Rugby World Cup)
  • up 6 per cent compared to the July 2011 year

Where they come from is interesting:

  • Australia 45% of total visitor numbers (1.19 million), up 1% on July 2012 year
  • China 9% (0.23 million), up 27%
  • United States 7% (0.19 million), up 5%
  • United Kingdom 7% (0.19 million), down 10%

When we compare this with data from our Museum Sector Survey which includes annual totals from museums/galleries: 23% of museum visitors were from overseas (29% for large museums)
Data from our Museum Visitor Survey which measures visitation over a short period in February/March gives a very different total and further breakdown for museum visitors:

  • 42% of museum visitors were from overseas, and they came from,
  • Australia 29%
  • Asia 5%
  • United States and Canada 17%
  • United Kingdom 25%

In the latest Regional Tourism Indicators the rolling average index data for the year to July 2013 shows a decline of 12% for international visitor spend, and an 8% increase for domestic visitor spend over the same period.

On the positive side, the latest NZ Tourism Sector Outlook forecasts for 2013-2019 shows that the long term outlook for the tourism sector is for growth in visitor numbers and spending expected from Australia, the United States, China and emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa. This should more than offset the effect of the Global Financial Crisis on the number of visitors traveling to New Zealand from the United Kingdom and Europe. The report also predicts further change in the composition of visitors – their age, why they visit and how long they stay.

A reminder that the latest Museum Sector Remuneration Survey undertaken by Strategic Pay is now complete. The confidential report can be purchased by participating organisations, and also by non-participating members of MA. It is not available to individuals. More information for members is here.

And a reminder that we have new occasional guest blogs coming through. The latest is from one of our Museums Aotearoa members Michelle Sim of the Air Force Museum, who recently had an amazing experience, hitching along with two museum colleagues on an Air Force round trip to the UK. Also don’t forget to check out the new members’ section of our website. Introduce yourself on the forum by 5pm tomorrow and we will send you a T-shirt.

Ngā mihi
Phillipa and Talei
PS – last Friday we circulated our first notice about the MA14 conference – The Business of Museums. Let us know what and who you’d like included, and plan to join us with hosts MTG Hawke’s Bay in Napier, 2-4 April 2014.
Proposals for contributions are welcome. We will consider proposals for individual presentations, group presentations, forums, panels, quick-fire sessions, debates, professional development workshops and any other ideas you may have.Please send a brief outline of your proposal to Museums Aotearoa by 23 September 2013.

MA14 Conference: The Business of Culture
2-4 April 2014
MTG Hawke’s Bay, Napier

Four WWI museums at the ‘Western Front’ – Guest blogger Andrew Matheson

This is the first in our series of guest blog posts. We have been recruiting bloggers to write for us on a range of topics: from interesting things our members are doing to thoughts and inspiration from people outside the sector, but who are still part of our GLAM ecosystem. Subscribe to the blog and watch out for more of these in the coming weeks.

In this week’s post Andrew Matheson from WW100 has recently been on a trip to the ‘Western Front’ where the museums are interested in collaborations with people and institutions in Aotearoa.

Four WWI museums at the ‘Western Front’

On a recent business visit to the ‘Western Front’ I visited four museums with a First World War focus.

Historial de la Grande Guerre at Péronne

Historial de la Grande Guerre at Péronne

In France the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne was established just over 20 years ago.  A Corbusier-inspired building houses the collections, and is attached to a brick château through which visitors enter.  The museum tells stories in three languages (English, French and German): not just of the military side of the war but how the lives of combatants and civilians were drastically modified by it.

Entering the main gallery at Meaux alongside 1914 soldiers

Entering the main gallery at Meaux alongside 1914 soldiers

100 km to the north is the town of Meaux, which hosts the Musée de la Grande Guerre in a striking new building.  This is a museum of history and society that aims to provide a new perspective on the First World War.

In Flanders in Belgium the well-known In Flanders Field Museum occupies part of the Cloth Hall in Ypres (Ieper).  It has reopened after a significant redevelopment, and in its first year since then 300,000 visitors passed through.

Not far away in the town of Zonnebeke is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  In July a large extension to the museum was opened; mostly in underground galleries but also including a recreation of trenches and dugouts.  The new collections include the sculptural work Falls the shadow by New Zealand artist Helen Pollock, and a section of the exhibit devoted to New Zealand’s involvement in the area.

All these museums are aware of New Zealand’s contribution to the First World War, and are keen to do more to tell our stories. Specific requests and offers at the moment are:

  • The museum at Meaux would like to borrow artefacts and gain the use of images for its 2015 exhibition on the Dardanelles and eastern front campaigns.  It would also like to source appropriate medals and genuine or replica New Zealand Army boots for one of its displays.  It is also willing to assist New Zealand museums with sourcing French artefacts.  If you are able to assist, please contact the Director Michel Rouger:
  • Meaux would like to host contemporary artists from New Zealand performing works with a relevant theme.
  • The museums at Meaux and Péronne are both interested in hosting presentations by authors or researchers on First World War themes (French-speaking ones especially).
  • The Historial at Péronne is interested in swapping exhibits, exchanges of personnel, or loans of artefacts.  The contact there is Frédérick Hedley:

    Trench exhibit at the First World War museum at Meaux

    Trench exhibit at the First World War museum at Meaux

If you are able to help, or want to take advantage of these invitations or offers, please contact the museums directly or get in touch with the First World War Centenary Programme Office at:

Andrew Matheson
First World War Centenary Programme

News Update August 13, 2013

Kia ora ,
Today Te Papa and Auckland Museum are collaborating in examining a sharp-tailed sunfish which was found on Omaha Beach north of Auckland earlier this year.

Taking the top off a sunfish

Taking the top off a sunfish

Too big for Auckland Museum’s facilities, the rare 2.1m specimen has been on ice in Te Papa’s labs, and now Auckland Museum’s Tom Trnski and Te Papa’s Andrew Stewart are leading its dissection. You can watch the action live via Te Papa’s blog and they’re posting images on Te Papa’s Facebook and Auckland Museum’s Facebook pages.

In Christchurch, post-earthquake repairs are at last underway, beginning with levelling the ‘wonky’ Art Gallery. They hope to reopen in 2015. Jenny Harper is quoted as saying, “I don’t think I have ever been so excited about seeing people in hi-vis jackets at the gallery”!

We enjoyed meeting John Orna-Ornstein, then of the British Museum, when he toured NZ and spoke at MA13 in April. As of 1 July, John has been appointed Museums Director in a big restructure at Arts Council England – watch his presentation to the UK Museums Association here.

Local council election nominations close this Friday, voting begins on 20 September, and closes on 12 October. We are now seeing more declarations by candidates and commentary in the media. I have written a ‘Policy Matters!’ piece in the next issue of MAQuarterly – which is at the printers now – with some thoughts on advocacy in this context. Experience shows that, in general, it is better to keep museum matters out of local politics, and wait until after the elections to lobby councillors and council officials in the context of annual and long term planning. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the elections. It is vital that museums and galleries understand and are engaged in local issues with their communities, and are prepared for any adverse fallout after the elections.

Looking around the election information appearing, some organisations have put out guidelines and manifestos. The Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce has come out in favour of transport infrastructure projects, and against any increase in council spending, saying that ‘councils must cease those activities that fall outside of core business.’ While the WECC stops short of defining ‘core business’, and museums are included in the wording of the latest version of the Local Government Act, our institutions are still vulnerable if our value isn’t appreciated locally.

Here in the office we hope you’ve been exploring the new features of our improved online systems. We are now looking at other new communications, and will be introducing guest blogs over the coming weeks. The first one will be this week by Andrew Matheson from WW100 about his recent trip to the ‘western front’ and some requests he has had from institutions there who would like to work in collaboration with New Zealand Museums.

Ngā mihi
Phillipa and Talei

News Update 31 July 2013

Kia ora,

The big activity for us this week is the switch to our brand new website and database – at least at the back end. The website looks very much the same to the public, with the addition of a searchable museum directory, which includes national organisations and service providers. Once members are logged in, there is access to a whole new range of services. The most obvious are the forums (or ‘fora’ for those who like their Latin accurate) and members directory where you can find and contact your museum and gallery colleagues.

2013_07_30_MA_Danny_P1010354Congratulations to these enthusiastic members who have earned themselves a t-shirt by being the first to update their details:

Janie Sutherland (Puke Ariki), Felicity Milburn (Christchurch Art Gallery), Gelaine Marupo (Heritage Kaikohe), Erin Flanigan (Puke Ariki), Ruth Barrett (student)

Please make sure you log in and check that your details are correct.

Our next giveaway will be t-shirts for the first five forum posts, and another 5 for the most interesting over the next 2 weeks (we’ll do the judging, bribes will be taken into consideration).

On a more serious note, we’re looking forward to the next members meeting in Christchurch on 15 August. We’ll be hosted by Canterbury Museum, and begin with afternoon tea. We’ll hear about some MA activities and you will have time to talk to staff and Board members – as well as each other – about what you want MA to be doing for you and the sector. Afterwards Canterbury Museum is bringing Sarah Davy from the NZ Film Archive to present the compilation of ‘Temple, Prison, Restaurant: Representations of Museums and Archives in Film and Television’. Sarah presented this compilation at MA13 in Hamilton and we’re delighted that it will now be shared more widely. Don’t forget to RSVP so we can get the catering and room setup right.

The 2013 Museum Sector Remuneration Survey has now been released. MA worked with Strategic Pay to set up this annual survey in 2009, and the first survey in 2010 included data about 1792 positions in 49 organisations. Four years on, the 2013 report covers 3590 employees in 53 organisations. It seems that the high number of advertised vacancies in the last year has only resulted in a small increase in staff turnover, and that salaries have increased about in line with the wider Not For Profit sector in that period. The report is confidential and only available to organisations, not individuals. To find out more, contact Strategic Pay

We’ll look forward to seeing many of you at meetings around the country and hearing from you online very soon.

Nga mihi
Phillipa and Talei

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