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  1. 1. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 1 Issue 1, May 2016. H āngaitanga | Relevance
  2. 2. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 2 Committee members: Rebecca Keenan, editor Tamara Patten, editor Shelley Arlidge, sub-editor Jessica Mio, sub-editor Serena Siegenthaler, designer Milly Mitchell-Anyon, web developer MA Board liaisons: Talei Langley Daniel Stirland With much gratitude for the support and advice of: Elspeth Hocking Migoto Eria Ashley Remer Emerging Museum Professionals Group c/o Museums Aotearoa, 104 The Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand. | ISSN 2463-5693
  3. 3. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 3 Content Page 3 Editorial Page 5 The Dowager Empress Cixi’s comb: A provenance treasure hunt Jane Groufsky Page 10 A Māori perspective on the localised relevance of museums and their community relationships Teina Ruri Page 17 Cultural institutions and the social compact Courtney Johnston Page 24 Potential Chloe Searle Page 28 Exclusion in the art gallery Elspeth Hocking Page 32 Curating outside your comfort zone Aimee Burbery Page 38 The Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre: Reflections of an intern Moya Sherriff
  4. 4. Each piece approaches the relevance of museums in a unique way, with discussions around the following: collection care in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, major developments in a regional museum context, researching an object’s backstory, the challenges of curation in an unfamiliar subject area, an exploration of tikanga Māori in a museum context, comparing and contrasting ‘art speak’ at two very different exhibitions and a look at potential concerns surrounding the collection of data from museum visitors. As our first issue came together, we learned a lot more about the journey a publication takes from inception to delivery. This knowledge is invaluable as we work to develop a theme for our second issue. We are dedicated to ensuring the continued relevance of Tauhere | Connections as an accessible platform from which museum professionals can share their insights into our sector. If you have any feedback on this issue or suggestions for future issues, please contact the editors at Ngā mihi nui, Tamara and Rebecca Editorial Nau mai, haere mai. Welcome to the inaugural issue of Tauhere | Connections. Tauhere | Connections was conceived by the Emerging Museum Professionals group as a way to address a gap in New Zealand’s museum publications offering – a professional journal for the museum sector that is not tied to the work of a single institution. It is intended as a forum for early and mid-career GLAM sector professionals to publish their research, reviews and opinion pieces, and for emergent researchers and writers to build up their publishing credits. The journal’s name, Tauhere | Connections, echoes the bicultural nature and practice of the museum sector in Aotearoa New Zealand. It also reflects an important aspect of developing a career in the museum sector – making connections, forging relationships, building networks, connecting with visitors to our museums and with each other. We hope that Tauhere | Connections will provide another avenue for such links to be made. The pieces in this inaugural issue cover a diverse range of subjects relating to our overarching theme, Hāngaitanga | Relevance, which is also a focus of the Museums Australasia 2016 Conference. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1: Hāngaitanga | Relevance
  5. 5. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 5 T h e D o w a g e r E m p r e s s C i x i ’ s c o m b : A p r o v e n a n c e t r e a s u r e h u n t Jane Groufsky Associate Curator Applied Arts and Design, Auckland Museum Having held roles at Te Papa, MOTAT and various libraries, Jane now gets to work closely with the museum’s sizeable and inspiring decorative arts collection. Jane is interested in textiles and fashion, with a particular focus on print and pattern. In addition to her research in this area, she enjoys learning through doing, and has tried her hand at a wide range of crafts: textile stencilling, linocut printing, dressmaking, quilting, jewellery making and shibori dyeing, to name a few. Some objects join the Museum collection with rich and interesting backstories: ideal for interpretation and exhibition storytelling. Other objects are collected as an example of ‘type’, such as a beautiful 1920s beaded dress that may be evocative of its era, but lacks the story of the woman who wore it. When an object is separated from its information, it can be difficult to retrace the story. But as cultural institutions and organisations digitise and share their resources, it becomes possible to piece together the history of an object – without even entering the museum. JaneGroufsky
  6. 6. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 6 In June 2015, Auckland Museum launched our Collections Online website, allowing visitors to access more than one million catalogue records from our collections. The following month, the Applied Arts and Design department was contacted by Linus Fan, an independent researcher based in the United States. Mr Fan is a dedicated sleuth of objects relating to the formidable Dowager Empress Cixi, who effectively ruled China for nearly five decades of the late Qing Dynasty. He had discovered an entry in our online catalogue for “Z133: comb, hair. Gifted to Lady MacDonald in 1900 at Peking by the Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi” and was intrigued – could this story be verified? And if so, how did a comb from one of the most notable Empresses in Chinese history end up in a museum in New Zealand? We know that Lady MacDonald, wife of British diplomat Sir Claude MacDonald, met with the Dowager Empress in Beijing with five other foreign women in December 1898. In a full report of the meeting in the Sydney Morning Herald (8 July 1901), Lady MacDonald described the Dowager Empress as “a young-looking woman with jet black hair and kindly dark eyes; in repose her expression is stern, but when she smiles it lights up and all traces of severity disappear.”1 Lady MacDonald goes on to detail the official reception and activities with the ladies of the palace. She notes that a gift of “boxes containing combs “How did a comb from one of the most notable Empresses in Chinese history end up in a museum in New Zealand? ” Hair comb, circa 1898, China. Gift of Violet Dickinson, 1943. Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Z133.
  7. 7. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 7 made of ivory and of different sizes and shapes” were presented to each of the visitors. Despite the slight discrepancy in date, the description suggests that the comb in our collection could have been given at this very event. The Museum’s own records regarding the comb were slim, but we were able to confirm to Mr Fan that it was gifted to Auckland Museum by Miss Violet Dickinson of Burnham Wood, England, in 1944. Initial research showed that Miss Dickinson was a close friend of Virginia Woolf, and a relative of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland – for whom the city was named. A further clue came from Fourteen Years of Diplomatic Life in Japan, extracts from the diary written by Baroness Albert d’Anethan, wife of a Belgian Minister. In the entry dated 23 September 1905, the author describes a dinner at the British Legion in Tokyo which included a “Miss Dickinson, a friend of Lady Robert Cecil’s. She stands 6 feet 3 inches in her shoes, and when a little Japanese tailor measured her for a gown, she quaintly suggested the use of a ladder.”2 Besides letting us know her height, this entry reveals that Mis Dickinson visited Tokyo. Two of the letters in the Captain Humphrey-Davies correspondence file. Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira. MUS-95-43 Correspondence H.
  8. 8. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 8 Shipping logs from the Japan Weekly Mail confirm the arrival of a Lady Dickinson into Tokyo in 19053 – coinciding with Sir Claude MacDonald’s post as British Ambassador to Japan. This suggests that the comb was gifted to Miss Dickinson by Lady MacDonald at this time. Just one question remained: how did the comb make its way into the Auckland Museum collection? Was Miss Dickinson’s family connection to Lord Auckland the reason she gifted the comb to Auckland Museum? Early copies of the Auckland Institute and Museum Annual Report listed significant acquisitions, and in the 1943-1944 report, scanned and published on the Museum website, Mr Fan found specific reference to Chinese objects brought back from England by Captain Humphreys- Davies to Auckland as gifts from Violet Dickinson. George Humphreys-Davies, the Museum’s honorary Asian curator at the time, donated 354 objects to the Museum, sourced through his wide network of collectors and curators. With this final connection, we were able to go to our institutional archive and search through Humphreys-Davies’ correspondence for any reference to Violet Dickinson. Here, we found a goldmine. Our records co-ordinator uncovered a series of letters between Miss Dickinson and Captain Humphreys- Davies that unequivocally corroborated the story that Mr Fan had pieced together through his research. In Miss Dickinson’s own handwritten words was the story of the comb: “I’ll send the Chinese little things. In 1905, I went with Lord and Lady Cecil (of Chelwood) to Japan; we stayed with Sir Claude and Lady MacDonald there. Lady MacDonald gave me this present given to her in 1900 after the siege of Peking by the old Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. The MacDonalds were at Peking then and then later went to Tokyo; they had lovely Chinese treasures.”4 Miss Dickinson also confirmed the Lord Auckland link, including in her letter a list of family members. Although the elements of the comb’s provenance already existed in the Museum’s records, it took some investigation and time to connect the dots. In Mr Fan’s own words: “Years of chasing the empress’s relics, such a rewarding outcome is akin to finding the needle in a haystack.”5 Through the use of digitised resources and with the help of museum staff, our researcher was able to reunite this object with its history, and breathe life into a small, painted comb. First published on the Auckland Museum blog. “Years of chasing the empress’s relics, such a rewarding outcome is akin to finding the needle in a haystack ”
  9. 9. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 9 Endnotes 1 THE DOWAGER-EMPRESS OF CHINA. (1901, July 8). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 4. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from article14396046 2 Anethan, Albert d, Baroness. (1912). Fourteen years of diplomatic life in Japan. London: S. Paul & Co. p. 455 3 Japan Weekly Mail. Volume 44, 1905, p.342. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from books?id=WIMzAQAAMAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s 4 Dickinson, Viola. Letter to George Humphreys- Davies. 17 September 1943. MS-95-43 Correspondence H 5 Fan, Linus. Email to author. 13 January 2016.
  10. 10. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 10 Teina Ruri Museum Guide, Otago Museum Ko Mataatua te wa-aka Ko Putauaki me Maunapohatu te mauna Ko Tūhoe, Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Awa me Te Arawa ōku iwi Ko Rangitaiki te awa Ko Ngāti Nuku, Ngāti Ahi, Ngāti Tamawera, te whānau pani te hapū Ko Ohotu me Uiraroa te marae Ko Hine Rauhuia te whare whakaruru hau Ko Tauwhiti te whare kai Ko Teina Moana-Lee Ruri taku ingoa No reira tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā tatou katoa. Note: This piece uses Tūhoe dialect. Certain words are spelled differently than in standardised te reo Māori. TeinaRuri A M ā o r i p e r s p e c t i v e o n t h e l o c a l i z e d r e l e v a n c e o f m u s e u m s a n d t h e i r c o m m u n i t y r e l a t i o n s h i p s Introduction As I write, I express my close aroha and affiliation to te iwi o Tūhoe, to whom I whakapapa. This research is dedicated to our whānau in Te Urewera, situated in the eastern Bay of Plenty. May you remain steadfast to our beliefs of traditionalism and passive resistance. Te Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe! As I travel through my journey, I remember those who have passed on from our Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Awa and Te Arawa whakapapa. Ko taku iwituaroa tēnā. In this article, I explore the importance of kaitiakitana, wāhi, mātaurana and mahi to museums throughout Aotearoa, from a tikana Māori perspective. Furthermore, I examine the relevance of biculturalism at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, as examples of museums that present a rich cultural experience. It is important to acknowledge that museums provide communities with a unique interactive experience where the public can engage with culture through exhibitions, events and more. Museums are uniquely placed to cater to the needs of the individual, regardless or race, gender, class, sexuality or ability. They provide people with a sense of
  11. 11. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 11 place and collective heritage and are a great way of learning about local and global history. Importantly, they also offer opportunities to develop societal understanding of biculturalism within Aotearoa. Tikana Tikana (or tikanga), as described by Ranginui Walker (2004), are a customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in a Māori social context. The word ‘tikana’ derives from ‘tika’, which translates to correct, appropriate, just or accurate: tikana are therefore the correct ways to practise Māori customs. Leading professor and academic Sir Mason Durie suggests tikana are habit, lore, methods and rules (Walker, 2004, p. 67). Though an essential element of Te Ao Māori, every hapū, iwi and Māori organisation approaches tikana differently. Many iwi have particular worldviews and “Museums provide communities with a unique interactive experience ” A pōwhiri at Rongomaraeroa Marae within Te Papa Tongarewa. Image: 2016, courtesy of Tourism New Zealand. bodies of knowledge. For example, the Whanganui iwi are ‘river people’ and the Ngāti Porou iwi are the ‘coasties’. Their tikana is based on and is particular to their surroundings and history, and this diversity within Māoridom needs to be reflected in museums. Understanding tikana assists museums to develop relationships with iwi, hapū and other communities, and to care for and manage taona in more culturally appropriate and collaborative ways. Many museums have begun to involve aspects of tikana in their work processes, which is more respectful to our culture. For example, new staff or special guests are often welcomed with a pōwhiri, wai is made available for ceremonial cleansing purposes, and food is restricted near taona. For many decades, Māori and Pākehā, both within and beyond the museum
  12. 12. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 12 context, have faced differences of opinion and cultural misunderstandings. Along with developing bicultural practices and improving the recognition of tikana, museums have welcomed Māori into roles as curators, trust members, museum guides, science communicators, editors, marketers, and more. However, many museums within Aotearoa still have a small percentage of Māori employees, especially in executive positions, which shows that there is still a way to go in the pursuit of biculturalism. Kaitiakitana Professor Māori Marsden and Maui Pomare both describe a kaitiaki as a guardian or custodian, and kaitiakitana to mean guardianship, protection or preservation (Royal, 2012). Kaitiakitana is a way of managing an environment based on a traditional Māori worldview. For example, it encompasses many concepts and practices of sustainability, so by implementing kaitiakitana, Māori are able to protect these environments for future generations and pay homage to tūpuna. Museums practise kaitiakitana in many different ways, from the care of taona to the transmission of knowledge. This also encompasses an awareness of particular protocols and customs around museum collections. It is possible for museums to further their practices relating to kaitiakitana by involving kaumātua to provide advice and guide museum staff and groups as they have in the past (McCarthy, 2011, p. 2). It is vital that museums establish reciprocal relationships with a broad range of communities in order to meet the needs of visitors, stakeholders and staff, as well as the communities themselves. Involvement with Māori can come at many levels, including with iwi, hapū, schools, clubs and more. These communal groups provide unique ideas that can help in the practice of cultural harmony. Locally, these groups come together and share or express opinions and matters related to kaitiakitana. Community involvement is necessary in inclusive procedures to ensure all perspectives are taken into account and cultural factors are understood and acknowledged. Māori who have epitomised kaitiakitana in a museum context include Apirana Ngata, a prominent politician and lawyer. He was the first Māori person to become involved in museum relations and communities when he joined the board of the Dominion Museum in Wellington in 1930. This saw a shift towards the acceptance of Māori in such fields, creating a ripple effect through the future of Māori in museums (Tapsell, 2014). Many have followed in his footsteps, including Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, who became Waikato Museum’s first Māori curator in 1987, and Paora Tapsell, curator at the Rotorua Museum of Art and History in 1990 (Tapsell, 2014). These academics are kaitiaki who ignite the ahi kā within their rohe. “Museums practise kaitiakitana in many different ways, from the care of taona to the transmission of knowledge ”
  13. 13. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 13 Wāhi Wāhi is a noun that means place, location or allocation. It suggests the customary systems of values and practices that are embedded into specific locations. We as museums must take into account differing ideas of particular iwi and hapū based on locale. These differences could involve tension in inter-tribal communities; however, it is important that museum employees are aware of each place’s individual beliefs, customs and practices so we can honour and treat them with care. Mahi Mahi is the nucleus of most things. Within museums, mahi is focused, thorough and continual and must exemplify the highest standards of professionalism. Relationships are formed at a macro and micro level within the work environment. Mahi involves groundwork and understanding the requirements needed to maintain sound relationships with visitors and the community. These may include the acknowledgement to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a code of ethics and iwi representation. It is important to help clarify mandatory museum consent systems, including to whānau, kaumātua or marae communities who may be asked to permit rights of particular taona and disclosed information. Biculturalism in museums involves an understanding of differences in work ethics and cultural beliefs. For example, in a Māori context this includes women not working near certain areas or preparing plant matter or kai during her menstrual cycle. Many Māori consider this cycle a tapu time, with wahine taking into consideration the suitable times that they are able to A selection of taona pūoro from the collection of Horomona Horo. Image: Declan Judd, 2010.
  14. 14. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 14 get close to taona or sacred sites like urupā. Everything must be taken into account, as a show of respect to tikana and Māori culture. Mātaurana The importance of mātaurana is embodied by a Māori whakataukī which says, “Te manu kai i te miro, nōna te nahere. Te manu kai i te mātaurana, nōna te ao” or “The bird that feeds on the miro (a type of berry), theirs is the forest. The bird that feeds from the tree of knowledge, theirs is the world.” This acknowledges the idea that, when used correctly, mātaurana can assist with wisdom and collective thought, which provides us with many more opportunities than if it is not applied. Working with local iwi or hapū is reciprocal, and can strengthen relationships and share knowledge, forming partnerships that can, in return, assist in the development of accurate, innovative and interesting exhibitions applying mātaurana and tikana to local stories. The importance of taona is a central concept of mātaurana. Many Māori believe that taona held by museums are asleep until they have some connection with iwi, and that these iwi members can awaken and revitalise taona. Museums and Mātaurana Te Papa Tongarewa is an example that emphasises the richness and vitality of Māori culture. It is a bicultural museum where the management structure, spatial layout, architectural design and exhibition topics are equally divided between Māori and Pākehā (Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi, 2006). Te Papa provides opportunities for visitors to gain an understanding and appreciation of Te Ao Māori as a living and vibrant culture. Arapata Hakiwai is Kaihautū (Māori Co- Leader) at Te Papa. His role shares the strategic leadership of Te Papa alongside the museum’s director, and Hakiwai practises bicultural leadership and tautoko whilst developing wider networks and relationships with iwi and hapū. As part of his role, he oversees Te Papa’s Iwi Relationship Programme, and their Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme. The New Zealand Government established the repatriation programme in 2003, giving Te Papa the mandate to develop an official process for the repatriation of Kōiwi and Koimi Tanata (Māori and Moriori skeletal remains) from international institutions to local iwi. Hakiwai is also responsible for Rongomaraeroa Marae and the museum’s tribal group in residence. Looking North, the Auckland War Memorial Act 1996 includes a provision for Taumata-ā-Iwi, a committee that represents the interests of Māori. It is founded upon the principle of mana whenua (customary authority of ancestral land) with members from three iwi: Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Pāoa and Tainui. Taumata-ā-Iwi’s governance principles are much like those of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and they epitomise the concepts of mātaurana and tikana. The five principles cover the following: the right to advice, partnership, Māori “The bird that feeds from the tree of knowledge, theirs is the world ”
  15. 15. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 15 expectations, active protection and redress for past misunderstandings. Existing and proposed museum policies are reviewed by Taumata-ā-Iwi, who then make their recommendations to the Auckland Museum Trust Board (Auckland War Memorial Museum, 2016). The Auckland War Memorial Museum executive team includes the position of Tumuaki Director, Māori Projects and Development. Linnae Pohatu is the Tumuaki of the team and her role includes enhancing the museum’s relations with localised Māori, who can assist in broadening the range of services that the museum offers to the community. Other museums throughout Aotearoa cater to their communities and meet local needs in many ways. At the Otago Museum, where I work, the recently closed Hākui: Women of Kāi Tahu told the stories of wāhine from local Kāi Tahu iwi. The Tāngata Whenua gallery includes a southern section, which splits the gallery right down the centre from the north. Here, visitors can see idealised pounamu ornamentations, local stories and dioramas displaying examples of local Kāi Tahu practices. Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Wai 262 Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of modern Aotearoa. Although some museums do not publically display Te Tiriti documentation or information on its history, it is the backbone of encouraging the spirit of partnership and good will. Te Tiriti governs relations between cultures and ensures the rights of both Māori and Pākehā are protected (Orange, 1987, p. 5). Many years after the signing of Te Tiriti, the evolution of the Waitangi Tribunal led to claims from iwi and hapū throughout Aotearoa, which addressed Māori concerns about land or property issues. The biggest claim put to the tribunal was the Wai 262 Flora Fauna and Intellectual Property Rights Act. Extremely relevant in a museum context, the intellectual property rights act ensured the protection of taona. Having an awareness of the Wai 262 is vital to the care of our taona. It ensures no one is copying or reproducing artefacts for profit. The act provided protection for the historical preservation of objects and knowledge, and was necessary in supporting Māori and their cultural belongings. Mātaurana is necessary in understanding the importance of such legalities, giving those within museums a better understanding of what may have happened if this claim had not been addressed. Conclusion To conclude, the main themes kaitiakitana, wāhi, mātaurana and mahi are all fundamental in understanding tikana Māori within museums. They provide a framework that acknowledges the practice of biculturalism and how it makes for a better communal environment for the people of Aotearoa. “The act provided protection for the historical preservation of objects and knowledge ”
  16. 16. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 16 Furthermore, the bicultural practice and appreciation at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum and the Auckland War Memorial Museum characterise institutions that present a rich cultural experience. They are able to uphold tikana and the outlined thematics to enhance the services they provide. By continuing such practices, museums can provide the public with high quality museum experiences and engage more fully with their communities. Tē tōia, tē haumatia. Nothing can be achieved without a plan, workforce or way of doing things. Bibliography Auckland War Memorial Museum. (2016). Taumata-ā- Iwi. Retrieved from http://www.aucklandmuseum. com/about-us/corporate-information/taumata-a-iwi McCarthy, C. (2011). Museums and Māori, Heritage Professionals, Indigenous Collections, Current Practice (1st ed.). Wellington: Te Papa Press. Orange, C. (1987). The Treaty of Waitangi (1st ed.). Wellington: Allen and Unwin NZ Limited in association with the Port Nicholson Press. Royal, Te Ahukaramū Charles. (2012). Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation. Retrieved from guardianship-and-conservation Tapsell, P. (2014). Māori and museums - ngā whare taonga. Retrieved from en/maori-and-museums-nga-whare-taonga Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi. (2006). Mātauranga Māori and Museum Practice. Retrieved from www/tk/en/databases/creative_heritage/docs/ tepapa_matauranga_maori.pdf Walker, R. (2004). Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End (1st ed.). Auckland: Penguin New Zealand.
  17. 17. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 17 Courtney Johnston Director, The Dowse Art Museum Courtney has been director of The Dowse Art Museum since November 2012. Before this she was General Manager at Wellington web agency Boost New Media and Web Manager at the National Library of New Zealand. She’s a past National Digital Forum board member, convenor of the NDF conference, member of the Creative Commons Aotearoa advisory group and current Museums Aotearoa board member. She writes regularly at of-3. CourtneyJohnston In August 2015, with the assistance of a Winston Churchill Fellowship, I made a research trip around art museums in seven states in America exploring, amongst other things, trends in digital development and engagement in art museums. In November, I was invited to take part in a panel discussion at the National and State Libraries of Australasia event ‘Linked Up, Loud and Literate: Libraries enabling digital citizenship’.1 I used this as an opportunity to investigate a strand of digital practice that had really struck me during my C u l t u r a l i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d t h e s o c i a l c o m p a c t
  18. 18. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 18 conversations with colleagues in American museums: the increasing collection and analysis of visitor data gathered using digital methods, rather than surveys or visitor-trailing. The key development in this field is the introduction of a new breed of museum membership where, unlike traditional memberships (where you pay an annual fee for free access to a paid- entry museum) you trade your data for access and benefits. The leading exponent of this new membership model is the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Over the past three years, during the directorship of the recently departed Maxwell Anderson, the DMA has removed entry charges from general admission shows at the museum, and introduced a new entry-level ‘Friends’ offer to its membership programme.2 When you sign up for the programme, using a kiosk at the Museum, you provide your contact details and your postcode information. In return, you are admitted to a programme where, through various activities, you can gain ‘points’ that can be traded in for benefits.3 For example, if you collect sufficient points, you can have your parking charges redeemed. In a city where the car is king, free parking as part of your gallery visit is a compelling inducement to take part in the programme. More points get you better access, and more special and desirable rewards. From a dataset of more than 100,000 signed-up Friends, the DMA is able to collect information about which galleries are visited, which programmes are attended, and which rewards are most desirable. Using the postcode information allows them to see where visitors are coming from and, by comparing this information to census data, draw conclusions about which demographics their visitors represent - at scale. The DMA is currently using this information to understand which communities they are reaching and not reaching, under-serving and over- serving. The more time they invest in gathering and interrogating this data, the more of a data-driven organisation they can become: carrying out targeted programming, marketing and community outreach activities, and measuring whether these activities have discernible impacts on visitor behaviour. On the one hand, I am in favour of, and admiring of, this approach. It is all too easy to rely on anecdotal DMA Friends membership slip. Photographed by the author.
  19. 19. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 19 information, and your own perceptions of your audience and the success of your initiatives. However, I also have reservations about these activities that boil down to the risk of them becoming – in a colloquial but accurate wording in terms of the felt affect – creepy. We have become accustomed to trading our data for convenience and for access. We hand over contact details and dates of birth for loyalty cards at companies that then bombard us with marketing offers. We buy from sites like Amazon, which store our browsing and shopping behaviour and use this to tailor the information that is presented to us, and to others. We hand over our data merrily, and maybe without thought for how this data is being stored, analysed, and shared. If we look at the DMA’s privacy policy,  it states: “We sometimes provide personal information to other providers of goods and services so that they may assist us in connection with ticket sales, event promotion, fundraising, or otherwise in connection with providing services or merchandise to you. However, we require that those providers use personal information only for that purpose, and we require our providers to provide assurances that they will appropriately protect personal information entrusted to them.”4  A growing number of American museums are ramping up their collection of data in order to increase engagement for the purposes of visitor acquisition, retention and conversion. One museum I met with was planning on implementing the DMA’s software with a new free entry- level membership offer, with the same intent of understanding visitor demographics. But they also had a clear plan for using this information – this personalisation – for targeted marketing campaigns, and to convert visitors to shoppers, to donors: effectively using visitor data to maximise revenue. At the ‘Museums and the Web Asia’ conference in Melbourne in October 2015, Diana Pan from the Museum of Modern Art showed statistics derived from members’ shopping behaviour, and explained how MoMA had tweaked its retail offer in response to patterns they saw.5 As well as giving us information to improve the relevance of our programmes, tackle inequality of access and increase revenue, data can sometimes tell us things we’d rather not hear. Colleen Dilenschneider is a consultant with an American company that specialises, among other things, in the application of data analysis in the non- profit sector. She writes and presents “A growing number of American museums are ramping up their collection of data in order to increase engagement for the purposes of visitor acquisition, retention and conversion ”
  20. 20. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 20 regularly on data as it relates to cultural and visitor organisations. In a November 2015 blog post she crunched the data on free admission days: the monthly free days many paid-entry museums in the US run in the hopes of reducing the barriers to access for non-traditional visitors (read: those who are lower-earning, more geographically distanced, less educated and from a different racial or ethnic background to your average white middle-class middle-aged museum member).6 The data as Dilenschneider analysed it shows that free admission days do not attract underserved audiences. Dilenschneider’s research shows that: • Admission price is not identified as the chief barrier to access • Free access days attract higher earning and higher educated attendees than paid access days • Free access days do not tempt non- visitors, but rather accelerate the speed at which an existing visitor revisits. Cultural organisations generally don’t know how to, or don’t effectively, market free access days to underserved audiences but instead use their email databases, social media platforms and regular marketing outlets to tap the people they are already reaching.  These are unsettling things for the very well-meaning people who run museums to hear. Dilenschneider’s company generates these insights by buying data from many sources: the data of people just like us. They then analyse this data and sell that analysis and consultancy services back to cultural organisations: just like ours. I should note that Dilenschneider is not at all covert about this, and in fact her company has been very generous in allowing her to share this data and information as freely as she does.7 There’s no escaping the fact though that companies are being built and money being made on the bounty of the ocean of data we are all drip feeding into. Concern about the collection, security and use of data – from the outing of philanderers on dating sites to a former CIA director’s statement “we kill people based on metadata” – are hardly new.8 But my heightened awareness, due to what I’d seen and heard in America, primed me to pay particular attention to a series of references that floated across my radar, all sharing a common theme: the comparison of data technology to nuclear technology. In The Guardian in 2008, Cory Doctorow wrote that “we should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium – it is dangerous, long- lasting and once it has leaked there’s no getting it back.”9 Doctorow at that time proposed that “These are unsettling things for the very well- meaning people who run museums to hear. ”
  21. 21. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 21 Palace de la Concord, (1938-1943). Piet Mondrian, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H and Lillian Clark Foundation. Work displayed with text panel for ‘DMA Faves’ activity. Photographed by the author. Detail of a ‘DMA Faves’ text panel. Photographed by the author. data should be embargoed for 200 years, that anyone who touches or cares for that data over that period must be properly trained, and that businesses and government must be made to bear the costs associated with this. At the start of October, Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski spoke at O’Reilly Media’s ‘Big Data’ conference. Aiming to puncture the bubble of data enthusiasts, he painted a purposefully grim picture of data that in his words should be seen “not as a pristine resource, but as a waste product, a bunch of radioactive, toxic sludge that we don’t know how to handle.”10 Ceglowski drew an explicit link between data technology and nuclear technology, as two powerful innovations whose ‘beneficial uses we could never quite untangle from the harmful ones.’ Like Doctorow, Ceglowski describes the similarity between data and nuclear waste: both materials have the potential to last far longer than the institutions we build to manage them. He pointed out that “information about people retains its power as long as those people are alive, and sometimes as long as their children are alive. No one knows what will become of sites like Twitter in five years or ten. But the data those sites own will retain the power to hurt for decades.”11 He also noted that data technology is creating a situation where people are reacting to the manipulations of big data, purposefully gaming systems, forcing an ever-evolving arms race between data collectors and data creators that creates more distance between us as humans, not more understanding. Finally, British artist and technologist James Bridle recently wrote an essay, based on a talk he gave at the ‘Through Post-Atomic Eyes’ event in Toronto, that referenced the two above pieces.12 Bridle has written and made work extensively about mass surveillance, and in this piece he drew a parallel between the Cold War that nuclear technology locked the world into for 45 years and the potential of big data today. As he notes, even though the information we collect about human behaviour grows and grows and grows, our sympathy and empathy and connection across politics, races, religions and nations do not leap forward at the same pace We in cultural organisations think of ourselves as the white hats and the
  22. 22. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 22 good guys. Libraries in particular have a strong ethos of free and protected access to information. The siren call of data is strong however, and we will all soon, if not already, have to ask ourselves: who benefits from the data we collect, and how do we keep each other safe? A coda When I gave this talk, I purposefully took a cautious attitude towards the activity of data collection by cultural organisations, and painted a dark picture of a field that can be intelligently managed. My concern, as a museum director but also as a technologist at heart, lies with the tendency of people who are not versed in the conversations around data management to fall for vendors’ pitches without applying a sufficiently sceptical lens to their claims. This concern was proved valid when earlier this year I heard a museum director talking about hardware they were about to insert into their gallery doorways, which would collect the IMEI (unique identifier) of every switched-on mobile phone that entered the building. This is vastly appealing to me as a director, for the ability to cheaply and accurately measure how many repeat visitors you have to your museum and how frequently they visit. It is also terrifying to me as a technologist and as a citizen, in terms of the way it invades an individual’s privacy and surveils their physical passage through the world. At the end of the talk, a member of the audience asked how we could collect and manage data responsibly. I offer up Ceglowski’s advice as a starting point for you, reproduced here from his ‘Haunted by Data’ talk: “Don’t collect it!  If you can get away with it, just don’t collect it! Just like you don’t worry about getting mugged if you don’t have any money, your problems with data disappear if you stop collecting it. ... If you have to collect it, don’t store it!  ... You can get a lot of mileage out of ephemeral data. There’s an added benefit that people will be willing to share things with you they wouldn’t otherwise share, as long as they can believe you won’t store it. ...  If you have to store it, don’t keep it!  Certainly don’t keep it forever. Don’t sell it to Acxiom! Don’t put it in Amazon glacier and forget it.  I believe there should be a law that limits behavioral data collection to 90 days, not because I want to ruin Christmas for your children, but because I think it will give us all better data while clawing back some semblance of privacy. ”13 Endnotes 1 Linked Up, Loud and Literate: Enabling Digital Citizenship linked-loud-and-literate-libraries-enabling-digital- citizenship-wellington-nz 2 The Dallas Museum of Art Friends programme (More information about my research into American museum membership programmes is available here acquittal-draft-membership.html, including links to many more articles and sources.)
  23. 23. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 23 ChloeSearle 3 Points can be gained in a multitude of ways: by bringing people to the museum and recruiting them into the programme, collecting codes posted at the entries to different galleries, taking part in public programme events, doing scavenger hunts, and so on. 4 The Dallas Museum of Art Friends privacy statement 5 Diana Pan and Manish Engineer, ‘The 360-Degree View: Why An Integrated CRM Platform is Important in Growing a Museum’s Membership Program.’ Museums and the Web Asia, Melbourne, October 2015 proposal/the-360-degree-view-why-an-integrated- crm-platform-is-important-in-growing-a-museums- membership-program/ 6 Colleen Dilenschneider, ‘Free admission days do not actually attract underserved visitors.’ Know Your Own Bone, 4 November 2015 http://colleendilen. com/2015/11/04/free-admission-days-do-not- actually-attract-underserved-visitors-to-cultural- organizations-data/ 7 See the information page on Dilenschneider’s website and her frequent public presentations 8 David Cole, ‘We Kill People Based on Metadata.’ New York Review of Books, 10 May 2014 people-based-metadata/ 9 Cory Doctorow, ‘Personal data is as hot as nuclear waste.’ The Guardian, 15 January 2008 https:// security 10 Maciej Ceglowski, ‘Haunted by Data.’ Talk given on 1 October 2015 haunted_by_data.htm 11 Ibid. 12 James Bridle, ‘Big Data, No Thanks.’ BookTwo. org, 2 November 2015 big-data-no-thanks/ 13 Ceglowski, ‘Haunted by Data.’
  24. 24. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 24 Chloe Searle Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, North Otago Museum Chloe Searle has a BA in Anthropology and English from University of Canterbury and a Masters of Museum and Heritage Studies from Victoria University. For the last five years she has worked as the Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the North Otago Museum in Oamaru. She was also acting Director for part of that time. She has a real interest in all aspects of museum operations, which makes work at small museum ideal. ChloeSearle Potential Potential. That was the word my friend Jamie used to describe the North Otago Museum when I asked him to go on a day trip to Oamaru to check out the museum before I was interviewed for the role of curator in 2010. I got the job. Since then it has been the site of much of my museum learning as an emerging professional. I had previously spent six months as a registrar at MTG (then the Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery) and before that did contract work in Wellington while completing my master’s degree. Five and a half years in, including two and a half as acting director, most of the North Otago Museum’s potential is yet to be realised. This potential is perhaps better recognised by people from outside the district who see: the significance of Oamaru’s Victorian architecture; the town’s influence on writers, including Janet Frame; the “Willetts Collection”, an impressive assemblage of Māori taonga from the Waitaki river mouth area and more besides. The current museum does not do any of these stories justice. When I arrived a redevelopment was planned, but it did not progress to the building stage. However, the need to address limitations with current buildings and the desire to offer a better visitor experience are two of the drivers behind our current cultural facility development project. The new facility is due to open in 2019. This plan involves redeveloping the current Forrester Gallery and an adjoining building being constructed. Together the redeveloped buildings will house the combined North Otago Museum, Forrester Gallery and Waitaki
  25. 25. archive are managed together with the museum and archive located in one building and the art gallery in another. Previously, management of the gallery had been separate, and at one time the archive was managed by the library. As we consider the form our convergence will take it is clear that our local community is one of the things we have in common. However, we often serve different groups within it. Knowledge gained from this visitor- centric approach, combined with my master’s research on collecting at Te Papa, has led me to critique the logic that informs a lot of collecting, and subsequent exhibiting - that you should collect things “of” a place. Certainly there is merit to this, in that it The current Forrester Gallery building. “As we consider the form our convergence will take it is clear that our local community is one of the things we have in common ” District Archive. Staff, past and present, have worked hard towards bringing the North Otago Museum up to professional standards, but our current buildings are a barrier to further progress. Unfortunately, because the project involves a new building, it is all too easy for discussion to become about the building instead of focusing on why we are developing and who we are developing for. From my point of view it is about developing a facility that will assist us to reach our potential. And for me this means thinking about our visitors and also about those who currently do not visit. The year I spent working on marketing and visitor research at Te Papa has left me with an ongoing appreciation for learning about your visitors and then using that information to serve them better. We are fortunate at the museum, gallery and archive that all staff work both front and back of house. This helps us understand our visitors. An exciting aspect of the development project is the work that is being done on stakeholder engagement. In December 2015 three public meetings were held to discuss ideas for the development. Some great ideas have been raised, and I think those who participated have also gained an insight into the complexities of the development project. Further public discussions are planned as the project progresses. Currently the museum, gallery and
  26. 26. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 26 means provenance becomes important rather than just collecting any old stuff offered, but what is a Waitaki object? Our history takes place within wider national and international trends and each region ultimately has untidy edges when the movement of people and things is considered. I think a focus, instead, of collecting ‘for’ a particular place can encompass both local material and objects from its untidy edges while acknowledging that local audiences do not always want to see only local content. I was reminded of this during a recent discussion with one woman in Oamaru, not ‘born and bred’, as she put it. She said she felt socially excluded in the community overall as people endlessly referenced family histories, and if you did not have a place in that world then there seemed to be no place for you. I do not want our new cultural facility to be a place where newcomers feel excluded - in a small town the process of becoming a local can take decades. Another example of this is in the Waitaki’s growing Tongan population. Their history is not currently reflected in our museum’s collection, but would including items from the Tongan community be enough to serve this audience? As noted at the 2014 ICOM conference in Auckland the easiest way to include Pacific communities is to ask them what they want! We are doing this as part of the stakeholder engagement. Workshop participants discuss ideas for the new facility
  27. 27. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 27 There is however, a tension that comes with focusing mainly on the local community when planning the development project. Currently the majority of our museum visitors are tourists both from within New Zealand and internationally. This is likely to continue after the new facility opens so it is important that we also consider these visitors. As we get further into planning exhibitions I expect this tension will become more apparent as we attempt to balance the needs of our visitors with those of our local community. The development will shape the operations of the museum, gallery and archive for decades to come, and what the community expects of us will shift over that time. We need a building that will enable us rather than hinder us. In contrast to the current buildings it needs to be flexible, accessible, safe for people and collections, and designed to facilitate work on exhibitions and collections. It is also important that, as much as possible, we retain what visitors like about our current offerings, such as intimate exhibition spaces and the close relationship between front and back of house that makes staff and collections accessible. My time at the museum has been filled with ups and downs associated with the development project: excitement about the prospect of new exhibitions, nervousness about how much work lies ahead of our small team, a feeling of responsibility to get it right and frustration at having to live with worn-out displays while our energy goes into the development. For many emerging professionals I think these will be the realities of our working lives as our institutions carry out developments. I hope that, come 2019, potential is no longer the word being used to describe our museum. I hope that all our work and planning results in a facility that provokes a range of different responses. I hope for the realisation of our potential. “The development will shape the operations of the museum, gallery and archive for decades to come ”
  28. 28. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 28 Elspeth Hocking Collection Manager, Auckland Museum Elspeth is a Collection Manager at Auckland Museum. Previously she was Curator Social History at Puke Ariki, and has worked in visitor market research for Morris Hargreaves McIntyre. She has a Master of Museum and Heritage Studies from Victoria University of Wellington. Recently, on a rainy summer’s day, I visited Auckland Art Gallery with the intention of enjoying two exhibitions: Necessary Distraction: A Painting Show, and The Story of Rama: Indian Miniatures from the National Museum, New Delhi. I love Auckland Art Gallery, and visit regularly to enjoy its vast range of exhibitions in a range of mediums. I’m a confident museum visitor, a past curator and frequent museum goer and I’m perfectly happy to make my way through an exhibition and engage in my own way. However, I am also very aware that part of my comfort in a museum is due to a style of interpretation that tends to focus on providing information about an object or idea. This approach suits me — I want to find out what an object is and how it relates to an exhibition’s narrative. I am, of course, greatly simplifying what museum interpretation can be, but in my own personal experience this is a regularly employed model. I seek a museum’s guidance on the meaning of objects, as a site of research and for its specialist knowledge on topics. I feel significantly less confident when visiting art galleries, particularly contemporary galleries. My ethnicity and physical capability have usually contributed to a feeling of inclusion in galleries, even though I have never formally or informally studied art. I have preferred, instead, to develop my understanding based on what I find out on gallery visits. I’m very much part of the demographic that is most represented in art gallery visitors in New Zealand – Pākehā, female, E x c l u s i o n i n t h e a r t g a l l e r y ElspethHocking
  29. 29. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 29 middle-class and educated. However, my visit to this contemporary gallery space brought to light ways in which I do feel excluded. It certainly made me reflect on the (lack of) relevance of one of these exhibitions, particularly its interpretation, for other demographic groups. I started my visit with Necessary Distraction. It became clear very quickly that this was interpretation written for a specific audience. That audience seemed to be other curators. I developed this impression from the first few sentences of the introductory panel. Even as someone with a postgraduate degree, my initial reaction to most of the panels was bewilderment. Many of the single words used were unfamiliar, and their composition on the panels didn’t convey any meaning about the art that I, a non- specialist, could comprehend. On reflection, this was pure international art speak, a specialist language outlined by Alix Rule and David Levine. The Guardian’s professional arts and culture network neatly summed it up in their article about writing an artist’s statement, “This is a dialect of the privileged; the elite university educated. If you can’t write it effectively, you’re not part of the art world. If you’re already inside but don’t understand it, you’re not allowed to admit it, or ask for further explanation. This kind of rhetoric relies on everyone participating without question.”1 Further, as artist Alistair Gentry described in his article about the role of art texts, “certain art texts… may be made up of technically correct English words and sentences, but ultimately can’t be processed by the reader into anything resembling a rational argument. You may immediately recall particular writers about art who seem to be going for the high score in a game of Scrabble instead of communicating ideas… Sometimes it’s clearly deliberate and they don’t care if 99% of their readers are turned off, because their intended audience is purely and exclusively other people like themselves.”2 This process continued throughout Necessary Distraction, leaving me to engage with the art on a purely aesthetic level, picking and choosing my ‘favourites’. While this in itself is a well-publicised method of interpretation, and does have certain qualities in helping visitors look at art more deeply, I find it an exclusionary tactic. How will those audiences, who haven’t had the opportunity to formally or informally study contemporary art, decode what the artworks are trying to say? Art and the process of the artist can speak more clearly with a little help, in English, that can be understood by visitors who aren’t fluent in international art speak. I don’t mean that galleries should treat its visitors as if they are idiots. Instead, I appreciate the approach of “How will those audiences, who haven’t had the opportunity to formally or informally study contemporary art, decode what the artworks are trying to say? ”
  30. 30. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 30 Alistair Gentry, who argued, ‘I strongly believe that we should aspire to raising everybody’s level of knowledge. We shouldn’t assume that everybody’s an idiot and speak to them accordingly, because this drags us all down to the most tiresomely literal and unreflective ways of engaging with art.’3 What visitors want to know requires significant research, and interpretation can never meet every single need of every individual visitor. What I felt was missing from the interpretation of Necessary Distraction was any comprehensible insight into the process of the artist. I use the word comprehensible very specifically here – many of the panels in the exhibition discussed what I can only assume the artworks were communicating, but this was done in a way that I literally could not understand. Only one panel informed me about the artists and their practice. Emma Fitts’ and Kirstin Carlin’s complementary oil and textile works were neatly explained, and the relationship between the media made sense. Unsurprisingly, these works were some of my favourites - I felt equipped to engage with their art and to understand these artists’ perspectives better than any of the others’. In contrast, the interpretation of The Story of Rama helped me to comprehend part of India’s visual culture, and develop some insight into painting and storytelling in India between the 17th and 19th centuries. The exhibition was laid out in a way that followed the narrative of the Ramayana (the journey of Rama), and where possible the artists, time periods and media were noted on labels. Each section of the visual narrative was neatly encapsulated in short labels outlining the story, giving the option of gazing on the beautiful artworks on their own, or having the written text to clarify what was being seen. I felt more confident traversing this exhibition, able to follow the narrative and awed by the skill of the artists and the beauty of the images. The clear text and lack of international art speak made this space far more relevant to my desire to expand my knowledge, and helped me to appreciate visual forms of communication that aren’t my usual approach. By providing interpretation that does not require a particular skill set to decode, I was left feeling inspired and educated, rather than confused and frustrated, as I felt after leaving Necessary Distraction. Part of the curatorial brief for Necessary Distraction was to examine the relevance of painting, a static form in a constantly changing world. Rather than understanding more about how painting can reflect the world, how it “If we approach interpretation as a means of raising the level of knowledge for as many as possible, rather than catering for a select few, perhaps more visitors to galleries might feel art exhibitions are accessible to them personally ”
  31. 31. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 31 remains relevant and what individual works are communicating, I left that exhibition uncertain of what relevance contemporary art writing has for a general audience. In contrast, I felt informed and excited by my experience in The Story of Rama, and was pleased to have been introduced to a visual history that I had never before encountered. Interpretation in the arts can be a difficult, frustrating and lengthy process. If we approach interpretation as a means of raising the level of knowledge for as many as possible, rather than catering for a select few, perhaps more visitors to galleries might feel art exhibitions are accessible to them personally. As Conal McCarthy and David Mason noted in their article ‘The Feeling of Exclusion’, galleries and museums "maintain the illusion of democratic access, while in fact catering mainly to the interests of particular social groups and unintentionally excluding others.’4 One way to unintentionally exclude cohorts of visitors is to provide impenetrable interpretation of what can seem to be very complicated contemporary art, in a language specifically designed for those ‘in the know’. In contrast, providing visitors with the context to understand a visual tradition, as demonstrated in The Story of Rama, can facilitate enjoyment and comfort in a gallery space. This will encourage visitors to return to the gallery, to start feeling a sense of personal connection with the art on display, and to the gallery itself, as a space for personal learning or engagement. Now that’s relevant. Endnotes 1 Blight, Daniel. ‘Writing an artist statement? First ask yourself these four questions’. The Guardian. 15 April 2014. professionals-network/culture-professionals- blog/2013/apr/15/writing-artist-statement-tips- language 2 Gentry, Alistair. ‘Artist’s perspective’. Nd. Interpretation Matters. http://interpretationmatters. com/?page_id=14 2 ibid. 3 McCarthy, Conal and David M. Mason. ‘“The Feeling of Exclusion’: Young peoples’ perceptions of art galleries”. Museum Management and Curatorship 21:1 2006, pp.20 – 31. http://researcharchive.vuw. pdf?sequence=1
  32. 32. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 32 Aimee Burbery Exhibitions Assistant Curator, Puke Ariki Aimee Burbery is the Exhibitions Assistant Curator at Puke Ariki, New Plymouth. She completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History and Art History at the University of Otago, with a focus on public art. She also interned and worked at the Otago Museum as a Collections Assistant. In 2013 she completed a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne, and worked as the Curatorial Intern at Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne for their Melbourne Festival exhibition The Somali Peace Band. In 2014 she worked at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, as a Collections Assistant. Recently I have been curating an exhibition called BUGS: Our Backyard Heroes. This exhibition is about ‘terrestrial invertebrates’: bugs, insects and all things creepy crawly, focusing on how cool these critters are and why the visitor should care about them. In curating the show, I have delved into a world of terms and concepts such as endemic, genus and biodiversity - to name just a few. This has been challenging as I do not come from a science background: I studied history and art history, and up until this point in my career have not had much experience working with the sciences. Curating outside your comfort zone AimeeBurbery
  33. 33. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 33 Curating an exhibition in this field has expanded my knowledge about the natural world as well as my sense of place. While the exhibition has a national and international focus, in some areas it also concentrates on my immediate surroundings in Taranaki. I have learnt things I never imagined I would: like the positive effect the rather unglamorous dung beetles have for farmers in Taranaki. I’ve also been revolted by some of what I’ve learned and experienced – made positively squeamish at times, such as when a giant centipede reared its head and hissed at me while trying to launch itself out of the terrarium! (We are planning to have a live giant centipede in the exhibition as an example of a native predator, but it will definitely not be able to launch itself at visitors.) So how did I come to work on an exhibition so far removed from my existing knowledge? The impetus for BUGS came from Puke Ariki’s recent completion of the ‘Natural Wonders’ cataloguing project, focusing on the Natural Sciences collection. Now that we know what the Natural Sciences collection contains, we have the Framed exotic bugs from the Puke Ariki Collection. The giant centipede Cormocephalus rubriceps is found across the North Island in New Zealand. It can grow up to 25 centimetres in length and delivers a poisonous bite! Bug fact:
  34. 34. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 34 opportunity to display a large portion of it in an exhibition. Objectives for the exhibition focus on creating a platform through a range of experiences that will engage visitors in conversations about the importance of bugs. These conversations should inspire visitors to take action within their own communities on a small or large scale. Essentially, we want people to really acknowledge the bugs in their backyard and within the wider region and country, and come to understand the important roles they play in our ecosystems. After developing the objectives, we worked on ideas and concepts for the exhibition content. As a regional museum, Puke Ariki does not have a plethora of staff working in the field of science, so for this exhibition we scientists, amateur and professional entomologists, forensic scientists and bee enthusiasts, to name but a few. I have had many positive interactions with experts who are willing to share their extensive knowledge with an ‘outsider’, and have developed strong networks within Puke Ariki’s local and national community. So how do I go about communicating this newfound scientific knowledge to the visitors in the exhibition? I am essentially acting as a translator from scientific jargon to everyday language, communicating the concepts in a clear and cohesive way. My process for the translation begins with research. From this starting point, I rework the information into text that I can understand and that communicates what I see as the main points of interest. My colleagues edit the drafts many times and experts will fact-check the final copy for errors. Text is only one aspect of communication though: another important goal for BUGS is to provide the community with a hands-on experience. I want visitors to learn exactly why bugs are so important and why we should care about them while still enjoying a fun and engaging exhibition. It is hard enough to get visitors to read exhibition labels, so plastering the walls with long- winded text panels is not going to employed a scientific researcher to provide the knowledge that we were lacking. We also relied on the research of the talented in-house staff at the Taranaki Research Centre/Te Pua Wānanga o Taranaki, which has directly informed the final exhibition content. For the rest, I went out into the community and engaged with the wider public and experts. These people have included local citizen Both the Auckland and Wellington tree wētā are commonly found in Taranaki, but they never meet in the wild as each prefers a different environment to the other — despite living on the same mountain! “I am essentially acting as a translator from scientific jargon to everyday language ” Bug fact:
  35. 35. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 35 encourage deeper engagement. Instead, I am aiming to make this exhibition educational by stealth, using interactives. Most of these are quite physical rather than screen-based, requiring the visitor to complete an action. Some are as simple as opening a cupboard or pulling out a drawer to discover what is inside. While the visitors are playing with these interactives (and hopefully having fun), my aim is that they will be learning and retaining the new information. One of the hardest parts of developing interactives that enable meaningful engagement is determining who your target audience is. Nina Simon discusses this issue in her blog Museum 2.0, noting: “how can we get adults to Eleanor Brown, Untitled (1903), collection of Puke Ariki, New Plymouth (A66.620).
  36. 36. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 36 participate? Many exhibit developers create thoughtful interactives intended for all ages and then discover that old familiar pattern – kids engaging while parents stand back and watch.”1 For the BUGS exhibition, the target audience is intergenerational. This is something I am very conscious of, and I am working towards a mix of interactives aimed at both children and adults. Many of these have multiple levels of engagement, offering different experiences for people from different age groups. Learning from past experiences for future exhibitions is essential for growth and development to ensure that exhibitions meet the needs of the target audience. In 2015, Puke Ariki staged an exhibition called Bringing it Home: Taranaki and World War One. During the exhibition, we commissioned visitor research through Morris Hargreaves McIntyre to find out what it was that our visitors were engaging with the most. The section of Bringing It Home that received the highest proportion of visitor engagement (88%) was the profile of Elliot Millar King, a local pilot. In this section visitors could climb into a replica of a World War One plane, with an object case built into the wing, and put on a pilot’s helmet. Part of the visitor feedback about the plane said “...maybe the plane could have been a little bit more interactive. I was kind of expecting something like audio...” From this we discovered that it is not enough to provide a physical experience where visitors enter into something, you also have to provide an engagement opportunity once they are inside. In BUGS, we are creating a large-scale replica shell of a Powelliphanta snail: the giants of the snail world. From what we learnt from the plane interactive, visitors will be able to go inside the shell, but there will also be participatory experiences inside that keep them engaged and deepen their learning about this particular bug. Another important goal of the exhibition relates to the concept of the ‘citizen scientist’. Citizen Scientists are members of the public, usually from non-science backgrounds, who volunteer their time to further scientific research, or advocate creating change to support a particular species. In the exhibition a number of citizen scientists will be highlighted, as they are also backyard heroes. The heart of their work is changing people’s attitudes towards bugs, helping them realise that bugs are a vital part of the world we live in. The bombardier beetle is able to mix burning chemicals inside its abdomen and shoot the concoction out of its bottom when it feels threatened! “ It is not enough to provide a physical experience where visitors enter into something, you also have to provide an engagement opportunity once they are inside ” Bug fact:
  37. 37. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 37 Through the BUGS exhibition, I am hoping we will inspire visitors to take part in a community research project or to make a positive change in their own backyards: exemplifying the model of citizen scientists. This could be as simple as planting flowers that provide pollen sources for honeybees, or building a ‘wētā motel,’ providing the local wētā with another place to live. Part of inspiring people to become citizen scientists also includes changing attitudes towards bugs. In the ‘Action Station’ at the end of the exhibition, visitors will not only be able to collect some instructions on how to build their wētā motel, but also contribute to an opinion-based measure of how they feel about bugs, after hopefully learning all of the amazing things they do. This will encourage visitors to really think about their attitudes towards bugs, while providing Puke Ariki with an interesting measure to determine if we have been able to convince people that bugs are a vital part of our ecosystems. Throughout this process, I have become aware that my lack of scientific knowledge means that I have a different approach, one that is perhaps not as deeply embedded in the detail as an entomologist’s would be. However, I also believe that my passion for giving visitors the best possible exhibition experience — while helping them to understand why we should care about bugs ­­— is an advantage. Currently the exhibition is progressing well and I am tying together all of the scientific concepts that will end up on the exhibition floor in a way that is accessible to visitors. I am also further developing content, organising loans, thinking about display techniques and writing the text. If you are able to work on something so far out of your comfort zone or your existing knowledge that it makes you feel a bit sick, then don’t hold back. I have gained more knowledge about bugs and scientific practices than I ever imagined. I have a feeling that this will be one of the most rewarding experiences of my career to date. BUGS: Our Backyard Heroes is on at Puke Ariki, New Plymouth from 12th November 2016 to 14th May 2017. Endnotes 1 Nina Simon. “Designing Interactives for Adults: Put Down the Dayglow.” Museum 2.0. 18 January 2012. < designing-interactives-for-adults-put.html> “ Part of inspiring people to become citizen scientists also includes changing attitudes towards bugs. ”
  38. 38. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 38 Moya Sherriff Collections Technician, Air Force Museum Moya’s interest in heritage sprung from childhood visits to her local Museum. During the university holidays (in between milking cows) she started volunteering at South Canterbury Museum, where she gained a variety of new experiences. Following a position at Ashburton Museum and completing a postgraduate diploma in Museum Studies through Massey University, Moya embarked on the ultimate new graduate experience as Intern, and later Administrator, of the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre (CCCRC) based at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch. In 2016 she officially joined the Air Force Museum team as Collections Technician. After the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes our city was in turmoil. In Christchurch lives were lost, homes were destroyed, the central business district was damaged beyond recognition and our world as we knew it had changed forever. For Canterbury’s movable culture and heritage dotted across the city, safe and secure storage was a critical issue. The stability of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s land in the suburb of Wigram, located away from the major epicentre brought our fellow cultural and heritage colleagues knocking. In those early stages, the Air Force Museum fulfilled their request for space by making room within their own collection stores. When this ran out, shipping containers were placed on the tarmac to accommodate those in need. The Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre Reflections of an Intern Ray Wootton (Friends of the Nurses Memorial Chapel) and Moya Sherriff (CCCRC Administrator) preparing a carpet runner for long term storage, until its original home within the Nurses’ Memorial Chapel is restored.
  39. 39. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 39 Meanwhile, after 10 years of planning and despite the extraordinary post- quake situation, the Air Force Museum Trust Board decided to continue with their plan to build a new exhibition hall and large object conservation workshops. In January 2013, the building was complete, but instead of occupying the space straight away, the Air Force Museum offered part of the complex to those organisations already on site and elsewhere who were affected by the earthquakes. For three years (2013 to 2015) the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre (CCCRC) provided a space for institutions to regroup and recover from this disaster. The CCCRC advisory board realised that the centre would need to provide some type of daily help and support. In July 2013 National Services Te Paerangi partnered with the Friends of Te Papa and OMV New Zealand to provide that support, through their internship scheme, for a recent Museum Studies graduate to work within the CCCRC. As the successful applicant, my main tasks initially were to assist with cataloguing, documentation and preventive conservation together with cleaning and boxing of collections from smaller museums and heritage organisations that moved into the space. However, what I ended up doing was far more diverse than the original job description. Once on the ground, I quickly discovered that there was a wide range of skills, knowledge and practices between the 38 groups within the CCCRC. Some were well established organisations with collection management and documentation systems The Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s new conservation and restoration workshops during the CCCRC phase. Post-earthquake the CCCRC provided storage for 38 organisations from 2013 to 2015 “There was a wide range of skills, knowledge and practices between the 38 groups within the CCCRC ”
  40. 40. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 40 already in place so the ability to assist with their cataloguing and preventative conservation was straightforward. However, there were others who had no established procedures. This was something I had not encountered before. So I started reviewing those collection management textbooks from university, asking my fellow museum colleagues and discussing ideas with individual CCCRC groups. Together we came up with retrospective documentation and cataloguing procedures which covered everything from filling out the object receipt form to packing artefacts. But it didn’t quite stop there – at one point I did find myself having a go at writing and reviewing collection management policies – not something your average junior museum role would involve. One area I didn’t expect to spend so much time on was talking through museum principles and ethics with the volunteer- run groups. The key topics that repeatedly came up were: the importance of creating and maintaining donor records, the ethics and processes of deaccessioning and the difference between conservation and restoration. My tack was generally to research the topic, talk to my senior colleagues and find online resources through sites such as National Services Te Paerangi, Collections Trust UK and the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. Armed with this information I felt comfortable enough to chat about various issues with the groups, offering the results of my research or suggesting they talk to other more experienced museum professionals. Sometimes these conversations were rather challenging and at times I really had to stick to my guns. There were occasions when I was completely brutal, and the words “No you cannot throw that collection item in the bin” did come out of my mouth. However, there were times when I knew that it just wasn’t worth putting up a fight. Maintaining a good working relationship was way more important and, at the end of the day, it is their collection. They are the group of people who have been entrusted to curate it. At times, I certainly felt as if I’d been thrown in the deep end but it was also slightly comical. There I was, wearing the label ‘intern’, encouraging others to adhere to these fundamental principles. One factor that made an important difference to the implementation of these new practices was leadership. The CCCRC provided groups with space, some materials, equipment and opportunities to up-skill, but sole responsibility for collection management and human resources remained firmly with each individual group. Groups with strong leadership seemed to be the ones that would embrace (if need be) new skills or management ideas and implement them successfully. However, some of the groups struggled and looked to me for leadership. On reflection, this was a really interesting issue, as the mandate of the CCCRC was to provide a support network, not control the destiny of a group or do work for them. On the other hand, I could see that if I didn’t step in and do something, these groups would fall completely behind. Their collection would leave the CCCRC exactly as it had arrived. So, with support from Air Force Museum and external colleagues, I worked on collections alongside the group, sometimes encouraging individuals to do specific tasks and promoting professional procedures until the collection was at least packed. “No you cannot throw that collection item in the bin ”
  41. 41. Tauhere | Connections, Issue 1, May 2016. 41 My original task related to CCCRC education was to assist in training workshops. This morphed into me (or Air Force Museum colleagues) identifying knowledge or skill gaps within the groups. We then canvassed individuals to find out likely attendance levels if we hosted a workshop on that topic. I found that bringing in an outside expert helped create connections between groups and other museum professionals, while presenting and reinforcing museum principles and ethics from another source. Another advantage was that I got to take part in these workshops and learn from the experts as well. Overall, the CCCRC was an amazing experience. Every day was different, full of opportunities and challenges that I would never have come across within a ‘normal’ junior museum role. I learned so much just by being in a place where I could research, think about and observe those ideologies and processes that our museum colleagues in higher positions deal with every day. I love that for the first year of the CCCRC, I was the ‘intern’ only in name, not in occupation. After July 2014, due to the great work of our team and thanks to the Canterbury community and the Air Force Museum Trust Boards, we were able to find the funds to extend my contract with the new title ‘administrator’ until the end of 2015 The Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s new conservation and restoration workshops during the CCCRC phase. Post-earthquake the CCCRC provided storage for 38 organisations from 2013 to 2015