Fast forward to now and the landscape for museums feels markedly different. And achingly familiar. We are still talking about the need for more funding, how we are integral contributors to the fabric of society, issues of leadership, how hard it is to get and secure a job, the underrepresentation of minorities in museum content and staff – the list goes on.Read More
Do what you think is right. Someone said this to me recently. It sounds so simple. This was unrelated to work but it got me thinking - what does doing ‘what you think is right’ mean in a workplace like a museum?
I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics lately and not just because of this theme but because I’m interested in the intersection of personal ethics and ‘the organisation.’ Or more specifically, how to negotiate your own personal ethical, moral code once you step into the wonderful, inspiring, constricting, frustrating confines of an organisation...Read More
The key whakaaro I want people to take away from this is that leadership can be more inclusive, it can be more diverse, we just need to change the criteria, and why the hell wouldn’t we? We’ve come a long way, there’s a fire in our pukus and it’s here to stay.Read More
With the annual National Digital Forum almost upon us, it seems like an opportune time to adjust our lens. Our previous themes have all included contributions with a digital slant - from discussion around open GLAM to Wikipedia and gender diversity, but this time around we wanted to hone in on digital and try to grapple with how we use/abuse/love/detest our increasingly digital lives. This is for a number of reasons but primarily because both Matariki and myself are currently both grappling with the beast that is born-digital collecting, specifically social media.
My thinking around this has slowly been developing over the last few years. What started as a slow percolation developed into a sudden epiphany and a realisation of the absolute centrality of this medium (or non-medium) to the future use and relevance of our cultural institutions. Once I had had this epiphany, the whole situation seemed rather urgent, particularly around the collection (or lack) of this material in to our cultural organisations.
Foremost in my mind when thinking about this new frontier is Twitter. I’m a relatively recent convert, having little interest in the platform before we created a Tusk account. But since that day I have been a ready and willing convert, quickly seeing the platform’s boundless potential as a forum for democratic participation and access - for encouraging dialogue and discussion up, down and sideways across the great and varied spectrum of society.
But it’s as a germinating point for activism that I am particularly interested in it. Like many others, the power of this medium was driven home to me after (the unarmed) Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson. As it is want to do, Twitter exploded. However, this explosion had nothing to do with pile-ons, bullying and snide mentions. Rather it shifted the entire conversation and centred historically marginalised ‘counter publics’ in the dissemination and interpretation of information around this tragedy. As Sarah Jackson and Brooke Foucault Welles explain,
African-Americans, women, and young people, including several members of Michael Brown’s working-class, African-American community, were particularly influential and succeeded in defining the terms of debate despite their historical exclusion from the American public sphere. This highlights democratic potentials within the networked public sphere, particularly vis-à-vis the discursive labor of members of American counter publics willing to contribute collective knowledge and critiques to the process of making sense of community crisis.
Suffice to say that this emerging discourse has busted my little archival brain wide open. Initiatives like Documenting the Now have emerged out of the urgent need to document and preserve the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as recognising that forum-based, viral dialogue is changing and challenging the way we receive our news. It has been acknowledged by many that during the Ferguson protests, traditional news-media outlets were increasingly looking to social media for verification of breaking news. I have heard it called citizen journalism. We need only look to the current Dakota Pipeline protests to witness this unfold in real time.
As we move into the future, a central tenet of our practice must be historical redress which must also include confronting the silences in our organisations and collections and honestly reflecting on how and why these silences (in the museum world we call them collection gaps) exist. Although progress is slow, I think it’s becoming apparent that social media platforms like Twitter are part of this process of contemporary redress. But as archivist Jarrett M. Drake points out this might actually involve accepting that a traditional repository, carrying the weight of its historical context, might not be the right place and instead advocating that such institutions support activist communities to create their own independent, community-based repositories. His piece on Medium, ‘Expanding #ArchivesForBlackLives to Traditional Archival Repositories’, is well worth a read. I especially appreciate his thoughts around hollow collection development and ‘gap-filling’ being a primary acquisition motivation for collecting viral activism. Social media is tantalisingly immediate but our professional approach to it must not be flippant - we must ensure we play the long game, build trust and approach collecting with generosity and duty of care to our many publics.
As content from our wonderful contributors is rolled out over the coming weeks, I would advocate for all of you to think about what this new frontier of collecting means to you and your organisation. I say this not because it’s shiny and new but because thinking about social media has profoundly changed my thinking about our sector. Among many things, it has changed and augmented my thinking around purpose, responsibility and relevance. I don’t believe this is just a conversation to be had among those who are naturally drawn to it or along generational lines. It’s not a passing phase or a waste of time or something that only affects distracted millennials. It is real and important and substantial. After the events of last week, I can only imagine that these forums and the voices that emerge from them globally will only increase in importance. Let's do what we can to acknowledge history as it unfolds and collectively push at the boundaries of this new frontier.
GLAM spaces need to be comfortable with challenging their visitors and their visitors need to become more comfortable with being challenged. There is no going back, and I don’t want to go back, so let’s make our sector braver, and stronger, by inviting debate and a sharing of minds.Read More
When diversity is seen as a loaded term or a buzzword, its power is undermined. That’s why diversity is more than a buzzword, it is as vast as its meaning and every aspect of it can be enacted to ensure that the disenfranchised are heard, consulted, represented and respected. I will continue to walk this tightrope and I will do it with my allies beside me, speaking with me, but not for me.Read More
A lot of things have asked us to question our identity lately. And by 'us' I mean New Zealanders. Kiwis. Land of the Long White Cloud-ers. Enter stage left - the flag referendum and the Kiwimeter. Oh, mate.Read More
At the recent National Digital Forum held at Te Papa, the concept of 'access' was a recurring theme. Though manifesting itself in many ways, it was a common thread that wound through every presentation I saw and every conversation I had over the course of the two day conference. But what does access mean in the cultural sector?Read More
- In the process of coming into being or becoming prominent.
2. a long pointed tooth, especially one which protrudes from the closed mouth.Read More