In five words, describe your place in the sector.
Shapeshifter, filter feeder, nervous writer.
What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?
I don't think I'll ever manage to be one of those people who knows exactly where they're heading.... so there was no epiphany or anything like that. I just send out feelers toward the things I find interesting. Sometimes that takes me to unexpected places and I've gone down some paths that were very challenging to me. The constants have been my enthusiasm for research, theory, writing and stories. Being able to focus in and really pay attention to something or someone, and to ideas, feels vital and is a privilege. As a child growing up in rural Whakatū/Nelson I was very much enthralled by small things, buried things, and by stories. I used to wander dazedly around the paddocks on my own for hours, tuned into an internal film reel, with a lot of patience for watching slaters and leaving offerings outside of the ant's nest near the septic tank. I also scavenged ancient rusty bits of farm equipment, which I hoarded and half-buried in a secret lair in the farthest corner of the farthest paddock like some kind of tyrannical collections manager. I wanted to be a librarian or a palaeontologist (the latter probably had a lot to do with the timing of Jurassic Park). But I wasn’t very focused in high-school and didn't make university entrance. My teachers let me take a remedial maths paper to make up for it. I was absolutely terrified of going to university, I thought I would fail at everything.... And then it turned out to be where I flourished. Like a lot of people, I just needed some space to explore the things that mattered or were interesting to me, and to do it in my own way. I felt a real sense of freedom, especially knowing it was my choice to be there (and I'm incredibly lucky to have had that choice at all). I had a bit of an existential crisis during my Masters (has anyone not) and spent a year afterwards feeling very aimless. So I enrolled in the Museum & Heritage Studies programme and upped sticks for the glow worm-riddled valleys of Wellington. Fast-forward a few years and a few jobs, and here I am, just over a month into my new job at Manatū Taonga. I feel like I’ve drifted to the right place.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far?
Figuring out that I wasn’t on the right pathway, feeling burnt out and dealing with mental health things. A general sense of being off-balance, before I discovered that I like to work collaboratively with others in a background or support role. It was a very painful lesson for me to learn that being out in front & visible all the time exhausts me to the point of doing myself damage. I don’t do my best thinking out loud, but if I can go away to a quiet room for an hour and write something......
Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?
My friends, my family, my colleagues. I'm enormously grateful to the people who've looked out for me, who've shared their time and expertise, who've quietly pulled me aside to ask me if I was ok when I wasn't, and who've encouraged me to write things when it seemed like the most frightening thing in the world. A shout-out also to the museum studies team at Vic uni, who really tautoko their students and graduates.
What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?
New ideas, X-ray vision, the knack of finding the perfect meme. Collaboration and community-mindedness… support networks are so important and often seem to be initiated by people taking their first steps into the sector. I think that's a bit out of necessity – it can be really hard out there! But there's a certain resourcefulness and flexibility borne out of that. Also, whenever you're new to anything it's easier to see the big picture without getting steamrolled by the details or overly worried about implementation. That sense of possibility can be tremendously powerful (and result in occasionally awkward and glorious mistakes, hopefully en route to changing things for the better).
What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?
Appreciating people for their individual strengths and working with them to grow those. Being forgiving of mistakes but also having productive arguments. More structured mentoring and sounding boards on our own level and above; we all need supporters, confidantes and critics (sometimes my anxieties tell me to stay away from people and avoid things, which is the worst idea ever – don’t do that). Understanding that collaboration and the process of making/doing have their own rewards, beyond the final product. I think this is especially important for those of us in community-oriented roles... Working alongside and for others means being flexible and making space, & textbook ‘best practice’ doesn’t always play into that. Clear, direct, humane writing... There’s a terrible self-sustaining feedback loop where emerging artists & GLAM sector folk get taught to write in a very academic way and think it’s the only way to be heard – or how to speak to their audience. I’d like to see more support for people to develop their individual voices; Tusk is a great forum for that.
What is your karaoke song?
The only song that’s ever worked out for me in Singstar is ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. But only when I sing as Nick.