Continuing on from our Museums Australasia panel discussion, here are Matariki's answers to the prepped follow-up questions. 'Tis always good to take some time to chill, ohmmm out, reflect, and dream of a brighter future.
What's the key thing you've done that you've felt has helped you find your footing in the sector?
Having not started my career in the GLAM sector, but working adjacent to it, I would say that working outside of the GLAM sector, living overseas and having children were key ways in which I found my footing. Working for publishers gave me experience that I could bring to a sector that is notoriously hard to crack. Living overseas was important on a personal level as I got to live differently (granted it was in London which isn’t that intrepid a move), and then coming home and starting a family has meant that I’m so much more focused and determined than I was before. Coming home to have a kid, to a city that none of my best friends lived in any longer, was very isolating. But it meant that I eventually studied a subject I felt energised by and worked really hard to build relationships with people on a personal level. Sometimes it’s those really lonely times that show you what you're made of.
Can you see a point coming when you won't feel like you're "emerging"? What does "emerged" look like?
I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt like I was ‘emerging’, it wasn’t a term that I had encountered in my publishing work or even now as a public servant. I think EMP’s most powerful asset is that it is creating a network for people. Kāhui Kaitiaki is a similar but different model and I have found it empowering having so many tuakana in the sector be so welcoming to us younger ones who are entering, giving us space and letting us speak. That is a clear distinction for me and how I define myself in the sector, it is the empowering thing for me: having tuakana who are our advocates, who not only lead by example but also acknowledge that we have much to offer.
I will feel ‘emerged’ when I feel secure in the future of the sector. There are a lot of budget implications that have an impact on the sector and I think we cannot afford to be complacent about what this might mean for our futures. Having a senior role in the sector won’t make me feel 'emerged' but feeling secure in the sustainability of the sector will, it'll be a point where I will allow myself to breathe out.
You've identified that there's a strong expectation that emerging professionals will do more than "just" get a degree and entry-level work experience or positions. What's the sustainability of this model for emerging professionals?
This has been said elsewhere but this model isn’t sustainable. Being able to study, volunteer, do placements and somehow have an income isn’t something that everyone is able to do. So what can the sector do? We know that we need students to progress a lot of projects and do work that we have no money to fund but striking that balance between what institutions need and what is fulfilling for a student is hard. However, I have a student working with me at the moment and she’s already showing how much we can learn from her. It’s really, really great to give people these opportunities but I also know what it was like to be in her position and be terrified of how to pay childcare bills. I’d love it if there was a fund (this is an idea of Nina’s) that institutions who benefit from students can put money into to provide these students with a stipend or something similar. Being able to take the pressure off students in these vulnerable position would definitely make me feel like we weren't cannibalising ourselves.
Following on from the question of moving on from "emerging" - what is your exit strategy for Tusk? Will it mature with you, or do you think you'll hand it on?
I’m not ready to think about exiting yet because there is still so much that we want to do! Having connected with so many Australians during the week of Museums Australasia, and this was an idea that Alex posited to us many months ago, we’d love to see either an Australian equivalent or have Aussies see Tusk as a place to publish. We applied for funding from CNZ in the last Arts Grant round so we could establish a podcast, unfortunately we missed out, but missing out on funding has never stopped us before so we still want to set that up. When we told our tuakana and contributors that we missed out on the funding there was a lot really great feedback for other options that we could explore and that’s something that Nina and I will give some time to in the near future.
Before we think of handing on, we need to ensure Tusk’s sustainability and part of that is ensuring that our model is really robust, and to do that we need to build a strong reputation of being a platform for great content. Coupling that with a well-established funding model will make me feel more comfortable about the prospect of handing over!
If you could nominate one change institutions could make to be more sustainable for, or relevant to, emerging professionals, what would it be?
I’ve been thinking about this in terms of Mahuki, I find it inspiring to see innovative risks being taken in the sector, albeit based on well-established overseas models. It’d be great if there were an equivalent of Mahuki that was aimed at how to affect cultural and societal change, I’m such a bleeding heart but I think there’s always more the sector could do in terms of outreach. Aside from that, being able to talk to people during Museums Australasia was invaluable and having more opportunities to do that, kanohi ki te kanohi, would be awesome - maybe Tusk could host a symposium for our first birthday…