FRIDAY Fast Five: He Waka Eke Noa

The theme for next year’s Museums Aotearoa conference is He Waka Eke Noa | Museums of Inclusion and the expressions of interest are closing on Monday so it’s fair to say that it has been on my mind (nothing quite like a last minute submission!). With this theme in mind, I’ve been mulling over this theme so this week’s FF is some prompts to get you thinking, and hopefully submitting a proposal. Kia kaha!

detail of The Houses Of #PeterFritz — last month at #TheKeeper #NewMuseum #nyc

A photo posted by adam zachary (@yyzachary) on

1. #thekeeper

The New Museum have an Instagram campaign wherein they're asking people to take photos of their own personal collection under the hashtag above. I love what this is doing for visitors in terms of showcasing things of personal meaning and upping the value in that.

2. The Culture of Complaining

Courtney Johnston posted this article on twitter yesterday and I went from, “mmm some good points” to “oh you’re just pissed at the Kelley Walker fallout at the St Louis Contemporary Art Museum” in about 4 seconds. Isn’t it so handy when people are so transparent in their desire to remain at the top of a power structure? It makes their opinions so much easier to dismiss. Also, the author chaired this terrible looking session which would’ve been great to go along to if you wanted to hear a white woman’s reckons on how oppressive cultural appropriation is … for the appropriator. This is what happens when “inclusion” is dealt out by those in power, they want to maintain their space so the “inclusion” never becomes one of equal footing. Echoes of Tiffany Jenkins.

 Pills ©Jewish Museum

 Pills ©Jewish Museum

3. Take Me (I’m Yours)

On an actually inclusive note, this completely interactive exhibition that is currently on at the Jewish Museum in New York invites interaction from visitors who are welcome to take from what is on display. The author of the review makes some nice points about how, through the interaction, visitors make more of a consideration about what the artists were saying. Obviously that is hard to judge without being able to participate but, if nothing else, the images of the room full of repeated objects are so visually intriguing.

4. The Future is Female

Reading this review of a panel of four female museum directors (in America) was emboldening, but also stifling as the constant repetition that they are still unicorns was repeated. Some great points were made by the panelists including this from Thelma Golden of Studio Museum Harlem: “And in this moment, when we’re promoting much more of an idea of women’s leadership in the field, we have to be doing that in concert with a wider conversation with our male peers, so that we’re not just looking for parity, but a new kind of equity. That also means that we have to be willing to call out unconscious bias all the time. We have to be willing to say that there are certain codes, totally accepted within the field that have operated for a long time that create all kinds of exclusions: class exclusions, race, gender, etc. And while it’s super comfortable to have these conversations amongst ourselves in our quarters, the only way change happens is when we open them up.” The current is female, there is an overwhelming percentage of women building up the base of the employment triangle in the sector, a triangle that gets more male as it reaches its apex. How do we get more women and ethnic diversity at the apex? To take the cue from Thelma Golden, it would be by having a seat at the table, having input into the powerful conversations and declaring the biases that are keeping the status quo.

5. Mishelle and Leone

Tusk has been going for a year now and each of our interview segments, Tuakana and On the Level, have also been going for a lot of that time. In the past week we have published our first profiles of Pacific people for each of these segments with Mishelle and Leone. Last year I heard that there were less Māori within the museum sector relative to our population size and so have always strived to include as much Māori content as possible, be it through our profiles or inclusion of te reo Māori in our social media output, whatever, the point is to normalise a Māori reality. However, where we haven’t managed to be representative enough is with Pacific content, and this is something that has reverberated in me ever since the final plenary at Museums Australasia this year when Marilyn Kolhase didn’t feel comfortable sitting on stage. At the time there was an adamant call from the audience that the seat would not be empty in the future, that including Pacific people beyond giving them a seat, would be a future priority.

Meeting some really influential people earlier this year at Kāhui Kaitiaki (including Leone, and Hatesa from Canterbury Museum) reminded me that as kaitiaki and as a sector, we need to tautoko our Pacific colleagues. During my very short time at Te Papa, it is the aroha and time that I’ve been given by Nina Tonga, Sean Mallon and Grace Hutton that has really made me re-think any complaint I may have because of their huge mandate and even more limited resource. The calm reassurance they have and progressive ways in which they work means that my time with them is some of the most inspiring and uplifting, and it’s time I gave back. Fuck I hope this hasn't been patronising. 

Anyway, because of "The Keeper", I now have "The Watcher" stuck in my head. Happy Friday!