Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The year that was

CE Rick Ellis has been in the Te Papa job for 200 working days now and he’s had a bit of luck. Maybe. Te Papa, possibly as part of its agreement with the Wellington City Council, its biggest cash sponsor, has released the latest annual attendance figures that would normally wait for the Te Papa Annual Report. And they look good. Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family,  Air New Zealand – 75 Years and the early months of Gallipoli – Scale of Our War have contributed nearly half (47 percent) of the last financial year’s total visitation. At 1,556,164 that’s a 17 percent increase on the 2013-14 year. Things haven’t been this good attendance-wise for over five years. The problem for Ellis, of course, is that this surge in numbers is based on programming designed by the previous director. His own accounting comes at the end of June 2016 and even then the numbers will be boosted by the Gallipoli display that has been designed to run until the next world war is declared. If you listen carefully you can almost hear them at the programming meeting calling out for exhibition ideas, "we need cartoons, monsters and don't forget to sort out another corporation willing to stump up for a vanity history project." 

ROY CLARE COMMENTS: Roy Clare Long past time to look beyond 'attendance', as typified by counting feet through a door. Where is proper recognition of the merits of 'participation', which hints at something richer than simply folk rocking up at the door? Ensuring access to collections is a 3D issue - physical, virtual, intellectual. And there ought to be a sense of the generic social outcomes. Presumably, something happens to folk who 'participate' - what? And why don't we care more about those kinds of questions? Anyone can drive feet through a door - try creating a shopping mall for example - a deeper delve is how museums founded on a 19th model can today still make a difference to lives; put simply, for the cost, what's the public value? And what price the collections? Or is it sufficient to be a stage for the collections and creativity of others? There's a whole conference in this.