Monday, April 13, 2015

We’re with stupid

It’s obviously the season for open letters with the latest raising a flaming red flag over Te Papa Press. The new Chief Executive (who’s a TV guy) is pulling the plug on print - what a surprise. The idea is that all publishing will be suspended for four to five years aka indefinitely. And if you aren’t publishing, you don’t need publishers, so the staff will take a hike too, despite the awards they consistently win for Te Papa.

So all that solemn nonsense Te Papa pledged about the importance of research and scholarship, was just that. It’s probably not so surprising that Rick Ellis, a guy who has never worked in a museum in his life, would make a major strategic error like this, but the ones who really need to be called to account are the Te Papa Board. They all know exactly what they’re doing and what the implications are. This is an institution that is supposed to be (according to the Act that established it) ‘a forum for the nation to present, explore, and preserve the heritage of its cultures and knowledge of the natural environment.’ Having failed with this remit for so long now, they are simply going to abandon it.

You may be surprised to know how many of the Board members (and we’re talking about people who want to stop the publication of Colin McCahon’s collected writings among many other projects) are art collectors and like to be known as art patrons. We're talking Evan Williams (chair), Aloysius Teh, Philip Carter, and Dayle Mace.

Tragically, given that Te Papa Press is such an ardent natural history and science publisher, the science representative on the Te Papa Board, Peter Gluckman aka Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand is also involved. 

If you want to do anything about this you have two days. No rush. Or you could just cut to the chase and call a Board member. They could stop this in its tracks.

PS: Someone who has stood up to be counted is Jill Trevelyan without whose powerful letter, none of us would have been any the wiser about Te Papa’s latest debacle. You can read it here.