Māori in Museums workshops – Otago

By Mark Ormsby, Manager Iwi Development, National Services Te Paerangi

When: March 18 -20

Where: Otago Museum

What: Service IQ workshop focusing on Māori in Museums

Who: Mostly Otago Museum Staff

It’s Mon 17th March in Wellington and the weather reports since the weekend say Cyclone Lusi is headed South. At the airport boarding the plane I begin humming a 80s DD smash song. My accomplice, Kylie Ngaropo, and I arrive to warm weather. Dark clouds loom as we check into our respective lodgings for the evening. I venture out later to eat and it rains. It’s St Patricks Day evening and it’s not surprising there’s youthful merriment all about the town. Happily fed and amused I head back to the hotel in preparation for the next two days of workshops.

The next morning is fine, warm and sunny. The architecture of various heritage buildings leaves a lasting impression on me as their brilliance is rewarded by the sunshine. Last night’s rain was a precursor to nothing. Once again Lusi has let me down. Time to game on as I enter Otago Museum for my first time. Kylie is right behind me. And I’m right behind her.

Otago Museum

The workshop begins with a karakia to help us all focus on the task ahead. Mihi and greetings are exchanged to allow listeners a way to find common enquiry points for future discussion. The history of the Treaty leads to a discussion about the principles and how this can be implemented into workplace practice. Staff leave us with an impression that they are more than capable of understanding the bicultural nature of  work with the local communities, local iwi and runaka, as well as the taoka that reside within the Museum.  Kylie and I leave Day One impressed by the knowledge and openness of Otago Museum staff, led by their star-gazing director, Dr Ian Griffin.

Day Two includes a few representatives from other regional museums who are studying towards a Service IQ National Certificate in Museum Practice Level 4. We are extremely fortunate to be joined by a runaka representative, Natalie Karaitiana, who along with Otago Museum’s Māori staff reps has really helped support the workshops over two days. Local examples and local knowledge are the secret ingredient of our workshops. ‘Taoka tūturu aren’t just objects – kaimāka and manaakitaka are also what fill our Museum with treasures. Protection, participation and partnership underscore every interaction we have with our collection, our visitors and each other’ – Vicki Lenihan Ngāi Tahu; Ngāi Tūahuriri, Kati Huirapa.

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

The last day is assessment day and locals tell me that the recent fortune of great weather is decades in the making. I believe them. Kylie and I head over to another impressive icon, the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Staff there fly through the Service IQ assessments and both Kylie and I leave Toitū and Dunedin with a sense that another seeding of biculturalism has been planted. Just the other day a position for Māori Curator at the Otago Museum was advertised and I think what a great space to be in. I board the plane back to Wellington on the final sunny day, being a Thursday, fully expecting to get home to some wintry weather. As I sit on the plane taxiing out to the runway I have a renewed vision for Dunedin and Otago. The weather wasn’t what I thought it would be and neither were the people. I quietly hum away a different DD Smash song as I look out the window at the rugged Otago landscape.