I (Nina) first clapped eyes on Janneen during the 2017 Museums Australasia conference. She spoke to a full room eager to hear about mana taonga around her role in helping to create the exhibition Kōrero Mai Kōrero Atu at Auckland Museum. But more specifically her discussion was all about the amokura, or red-tailed tropicbird. To get the full story of Janneen's re-discovery of these birds and their feathers in the Museum's collection and what they meant for the exhibition you should read her piece in The Pantograph Punch , but suffice to say her korero at the conference had me hooked. It was filled with a particular combination of warmth, curiosity, sensitivity, honesty and tenacity that I've since learned are an integral part of Janneen and her magic. So Janneen, I'm going got steal and adapt a Jack Nicholson line - "you make me want to be a better museum person. And person in general."
In five words, describe your role in the sector.
Exchanging knowledge, developing understanding (cue Deep Forest sound track).
What is it about the sector that you love?
I’ve met and worked with so many extraordinary, passionate, generous, kind and smart people in my career. I am a bit of a sponge, and hope that I’ve learnt and refined myself along the way in response to these encounters. I am indebted to so many people in the sector alive and departed who have mentored me in all sorts of way.
Of course (or maybe not so obviously) I love taonga, bling, history and people. The collections in our museums will be around longer than we will. I hope that in 100 years from now, my work is still relevant and can offer a small reflection of what we understand today.
What have been some challenges in your career?
Balancing emotional responses and rational outcomes
Balancing expectations, mine and others
Balanced advocacy for those who are not currently ‘core’ audience
Balancing being a Māori working in a museum and working to my job description (and sometime the only Māori in the village/meeting room)
Balancing my reactions and decorum when encountering ‘colourful’ opinions.
Balancing the budget of living in Auckland
Balancing my personal instincts and institutional agendas
Balancing professional and personal relationships in a changing/sometime stressful workplace.
Learning to save my energy for what really matters.
I’m super dyslexic (diagnosed in my 30s, I’m in my 40s now) and sometimes in an environment that relies on accuracy and lots of written communication, it is a challenge. It really pays to meet me kanohi te kanohi, for the full in-stereo Dolby HD experience. Of course I have developed strategies, and enjoy reading (a forced discipline). Being dyslexic has its advantages too. Fortunately, for the most part, I have had managers that have understood and exploited the flipside of my dyslexic ways, the fattest part of my brain. I have a strength in conceptual/abstract thinking and imagining (I also love coding text and graphic schedules against floor plans). I think dyslexia helps me as an interpreter; I naturally look to other media to share knowledge in a gallery environment, rather than relying on text.
What challenges can you see moving forward?
We need to demonstrate value as a unified cultural and heritage sector. Spending money well and with the maximum output of engagement. We need to learn to improve upon our methods around including our communities, and reflecting this commitment. We need to strive for relevance and being meaningful in the lives of people who have ‘bigger’ issues to contend with.
Further understanding the potential of our digital investment, how this might translate into a physical, social and meaningful experience.
What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?
Mā te tuakana e tōtika te teina, mā te teina e tōtika te tuakana
Seek guidance from both young and old, the two will balance each other out.
Help keep the sector real. Trade your knowledge *your perspective is valuable* with tuakana. Understand your own mana and bring that to the hui.
Take ALL the opportunity
Use your words, scribble on napkin, and speak in metaphors if this helps you communicate clearly
Prioritise having a cup of tea with someone
Learn how to listen, especially to people who are quiet.
What is your spirit animal?
Err definitely not a dolphin.
I did an online survey, and apparently I’m a Lion. Nice outcome, but I’m not convinced.
I was always told as a child that one of our (Ngati Pahuwera) kaitiaki was a mangōpare, hammerhead shark, Sphyrna zygaena. So yeah that’s me. I would like to continue foster mangōpare qualities.
· Keep perspectives wide
· Be good at manoeuvring
· Be a good listener
· I already have a freakishly acute sense of smell
· Sometime, you may need to bite