About Sarah Mankelow

I am a conservation awareness officer with the Department of Conservation and a mother of two.

Can interp open your eyes?

Guest post by  Sue Hill, Senior Ranger, Northern Parks, Auckland Council

When my father turned 80, my partner and I flew off to the UK to celebrate with my family. We then spent the next three months travelling around Europe, mostly by train.

Concentration Camp Gate. We’re not photo people. But whenever I could tear my eyes from the view from the train, I scribbled in a book that is now as well-travelled as I am. And among those scribbles were my thoughts and impressions of some of the ‘hard to tell‘ interpretation we encountered.

I took a special interest in the huge variety of interpretation we came across. Jorvik in York was fun but almost like Disneyland with animatronics and slightly bored humans dressed as Vikings. The SS Great Britain display in Bristol took us under the hull of the ship thanks to a plate glass “ceiling” with 10cm of the River Avon above our heads. The sounds of scurrying rats and creaking decks and migrants’ voices made us wonder how whole families managed to remain sane in the weeks it took to get to Australia.

Prague was stunning. Paris was  cold. I’d live in Hamburg. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp made us ashamed of humankind.

Anne Frank diary. Anne Frank’s house hit us like it must hit everyone and invited us to express our opinions about human rights and freedoms.

But the Warsaw Uprising Museum left us reeling. A heartbeat thuds from a central pillar reaching up through the converted factory building. All of your senses are assaulted. Machine guns, explosions, photos, film. The voices of ordinary people, who did not discuss whether or not it was wise to resist the invading Nazis, but just resisted – men, women and children alike. Then when the war neared its end and the Allies began to split Europe between them, Poland was handed to the Soviets and they endured even worse horrors.

The museum does indeed assault the senses, and I’d not  consider preparing displays like these – it’s just too much – but it does convey the suffering of the Poles in those extraordinary times.

We had something more walking around with us that day, the best sort of interp. Marak is 58, same age as me, so he doesn’t remember the war years. But his parents did, and he lived through the Soviet years when Pole was turned against Pole.

My mother was a child in an English village during the war. Evacuee children lived there, and she remembers watching planes performing above – not  acrobatics but dog-fights. But England didn’t face that sternest test – Nazi invaders. And speaking as one who was born there, I wonder whether the English would have reacted like almost every Pole did, or whether the cacophony the Museum tries to represent would have cowed us.

Can interp open your eyes? Yes, it can.

Note: Last days to register! “Hard to tell, hard to sell” – INNZ Spring Workshop and AGM in Christchurch close-off date is this Friday 7 September. 

How many cities you know roll like this – Canterbury Quakes exhibit

Quote

The hip hop rapper sound of Scribe seems an incongruous choice of soundtrack for a museum exhibition. Let’s face it, museums do have a bit of a rep for stuffy, dusty places lamenting the past, rather than being up with the current state of play.

But then, this latest exhibition–Canterbury Quakes–put together by Canterbury Museum is no ordinary one, for many reasons.

How many museums you know could throw together a 300m2 exhibition in less than three months? Not many.

How many museums you know have put together a true living history – celebrating an event that is still being lived through, 16 months later? Not many.

How many museum exhibits are looking forward, presenting dreams and visions for the future? Not many. If any.

This one does. Opened on the first anniversary of the quakes that killed 185 people in Christchurch, it’s an exhibit that combines science with the community spirit that shone in the days following.

Sarah Murray and Lyttelton Timeball; photo Canterbury Museum.

Social history curator Sarah Murray in front of the Lyttelton Timeball.

But despite its opening date social history curator Sarah Murray explains that the exhibit is not meant as a memorial.

“Canterbury Quakes offers us a chance to reflect. We are only one year on and we are still experiencing earthquakes; there will be years and years of stories to tell of this event.

To get it ready by the anniversary was challenging but also heartening as people were so willing to help and so open in telling their stories. We couldn’t have achieved what we did without the help of more than ninety individuals and partner organisations. We worked with so many incredible people, including representatives from the University of Canterbury, the Christchurch City Council, Ngāi Tahu and our principal sponsors Hewlett Packard, to name just a few.

When visitors arrive, they are first guided through a section on the science of the Canterbury earthquakes. On display is a CUSP machine, produced by Canterbury Seismic Ltd. These machines were sent out to locations in the South Island from the 1990s onwards to measure the earthquakes predicted to occur on the Alpine Fault.

Because of those machines, Canterbury’s earthquakes are the most highly recorded earthquakes in the world.

CUSP machine; photo Canterbury Museum.

CUSP machine

Geology curator Dr Norton Hiller and museum staff teamed with GNS Science and Canterbury University to create three-dimensional models of fault lines. Dr Mark Quigley, who was often seen on the news, has helped create a series of videos to explain the science behind the earthquakes.

In our section on the Canterbury community we have an area called ‘Helping Hands’, which highlights the way people came together to help out- like the Student Volunteer Army and many others. There is also a collection of items that are so familiar to Christchurch; giving people a chance to get up close to things like:

  • The spire cross and bell from Christ Church Cathedral
  • Chalices stolen (then returned) from the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
  • The Speaker’s chair and painted roof tiles from the Provincial Chambers
  • Mayor Parker’s parka
  • Booties worn by one of the search dogs
  • The memorial guitar from the Heart Strings project

We also have;

  • Stunts clips showing skateboarders interacting with the new Christchurch landscape
  • 30 minutes of  audio from the emergency communications centre from 22 February
  • Police and USAR photos taken within the red zone cordon and a moving interview with one of the forensic photographers that worked on the CTV site.

One of the highlights for me is an hour-long film featuring interviews with 15 different people. These people willingly shared their story of the 22 February 2011 with us and the film shows a diversity of experiences; it’s transfixing as the stories are so familiar.

For the final section we went to Canterbury’s city and district councils for a brief outline of what they see for the future of Christchurch. This section also contains information from CanCERN; what residents see as the future of their communities; and IConIC; featuring some of the lobby groups that have formed around earthquake- related issues. It’s a little bit of crystal ball gazing, which museums don’t usually do, but we wanted the exhibit to look ahead to the future of our region.

Photo Canterbury Museum.

There's a new normal in Christchurch - and its innovation!

There are some parts of the exhibit that will speak more to some than to others. But it’s about sharing a whole range of experiences. We have been careful to provide warnings as some content might be quite upsetting to people.

Personally, it was quite a challenging experience at times. Living through this event, then focusing in on the detail for the exhibition; at times I had to stop and distance myself for a while from what we were doing. That said, it was also an incredibly rewarding experience. There are so many stories out there that deserve to be told and I feel privileged to be a part of telling just a few of them at this time.”

How many cities you know got the skills to go and rock a show like this? Christchurch city.

 

“What was your favorite part?” – guest post by William Bevil

That’s the first thing you’ll be asked when you return from backpacking across Southeast Asia. It’s a fair question, but it’s also pretty hard to answer.

Khoo Kongsi Clan House (amazing!) photo William Bevil.

The truly amazing Khoo Kongsi clan house, built around 1900, was said to rival the Chinese Imperial palace in terms of its grandeur.

Was it standing in the shadows of the temples of Angkor? Was it spending a week volunteering at an elephant conservation center in Thailand? Cave exploring in Halong Bay? The adrenaline rush you got walking through a sea of speeding motorbikes in Hanoi? The food? The music? The people?

So, when INNZ asked if I would like to write an article about the trip, I was stumped at first.

My partner Stacey and I spent 4.5 months traveling in the region. Although we had done
heaps of research before the trip, I still wasn’t really prepared for the vibrancy of the
culture. It seemed like every other day we were exposed to things that were truly awe-
inspiring.

George Town sign. Photo William Bevil.

Look closely and you’ll see interpretive signs mixed into the eclectic street scenes, cleverly sharing stories about George Town’s colorful past.

I suffer from the occupational hazard of always working (or at least thinking about
interpretation) even when I’m supposed to be on holiday. So, it’s no surprise that as we moved across the landscapes of Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, I was constantly noticing the different ways—sometimes good, sometimes not so good—that cultural heritage interpretation was handled and presented.

One place that seems to be getting it right is George Town, on the island of Penang in
northwest Malaysia. Penang is a confluence point where cultures and religions from across Asia and the Pacific have for centuries met to exchange goods and ideas. It’s a place where at any given intersection you might find a Catholic Church, a Muslim Mosque, a Chinese Clan House and a Buddhist Temple – with an English Fort around the corner, thrown in for good measure! As a result of all this “cultural fusion” and layers of history, George Town is an incredibly fun place to visit and explore.

George Town Penang Guides; photo William Bevil

: Old‐fashioned perhaps but still effective, the paper walking tour brochure is alive and well in George Town and does a great job of leading visitors to hidden wonders

Getting around George Town is very easy, and the old town quarter is easily traversed
on foot, made easier by a series of brochure guides produced by Penang Heritage Trust
and the State Tourism & Culture Office. Each brochure is themed; food, architecture,
religious sites, and traditional crafts. Inside were maps and suggested routes, along
with history and details about each of the stops. They were great reminders that a well-
designed paper guide can still be highly effective.

Asam Laksa. Photo William Bevil.

Beautifully‐arranged bowls of Asam Laksa, one of many exquisitely‐flavored dishes we enjoyed on the streets of George Town.

Because we like to eat, our personal favorite was the brochure exploring the famous cuisines of Penang which led us all over town in search of food carts and streetside vendors.

The process of finding the vendors and wandering the streets was definitely part of the adventure, and we were rewarded with personal interactions and lasting memories along with the great food. We were experiencing the real thing, prepared by and for the locals as much as for the tourists. At one stall, we met Mr Mohammed Ali, who serves Burbur Kacang, a broth of sweet mung bean and coconut cream, at his stand which he inherited from his father in the 1950s. We sat in the shade of his canopy, watching people come and go and observing the natural rhythm of the place.

Wandering through the old streets and alleys of George Town, it’s easy way to get lost,
but I’d be willing to bet you won’t mind. Around the next corner will be something
unexpected and, likely, unforgettable. A simple tool such as printed brochures can lead
intrepid visitors to those authentic experiences they crave.

Don’t wait too long to see it—and taste it!—for yourself.

You are welcome to link to our SE Asia travel blog too, if you want, but don’t feel
obligated: reflectionsofthemekong.blogspot.com

William is one of our fab ex-INNZ executive members, who left us to return to his homeland. When he’s not travelling to exotic places he works at Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center in Colorado.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. It’s a great example of visual communication!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Design-your-own dessert – an interpreter’s chocolate truffles

To me, Christmas and chocolate are like cheese and crackers, Laurel and Hardy or Bert and Ernie–I can’t imagine one without the other.  I blame my mother–every Christmas stocking from Santa included a mini box of Roses chocs–you know the ones with puppies or kittens on the top. Every Christmas day would start with scoffing half the box before breakfast.

Truffles a la Sarah.

Design-your-own truffle

These days I am slightly more civilised but chocolate still features! A chocolately truffly treat makes a great gift and my gift to all you creative types is this simple recipe that can be changed to suit your own personal bent!

White, milk or dark chocolate can be mixed with a range of liqueurs and fruits to create your own unique take on this classic. I’m not so fond of rum and raisin, but how about port and prune? Or my own pink perfection: strawberry schnapps, craisins and marshmallow wrapped up in a white chocolate shell! Get mixing and share the results on our Facebook page! Yum!

Truffle recipe

2 pkts chocolate melts
¼ c cream plus 1 T extra
½ c icing sugar
2 T liqueur
2 t finely grated orange rind or dried fruit

1. Melt half the chocolate.

2. Stir in cream, then icing sugar, liqueur and rind or fruit, mix thoroughly.

3. Chill mix until almost set.

4. Shape into small balls then freeze until firm.

5. Melt the rest of chocolate.

6. Dip the truffles into melted chocolate and place on tray lined with waxed paper.

7. Chill until chocolate sets.

8. Dust with icing sugar if desired (or perhaps jelly crystals!)

The hat in the cat -a cautionary tail of missed-the-meanings…

Hat in the Cat.

Hat in the Cat (animated by S Webb)

I was watching Master Chef Australia – stay with me, I’m over cooking shows as much as the next person – but the challenge of the day caught my attention. Four contestants had each written a recipe and they had to watch while a home cook interpreted it to make the dish.

It was the test in communication that caught my interest. And all for contestants failed the test in small, but potentially disastrous ways.

A soup recipe listed 3 litres of water instead of 2. Another instructed the cook to divide the mix into thirds and place on 2 trays, so a layered desert lacked the desired presence. A rewrite of another recipe had removed an ingredient from the list, but not the instructions, leaving the home cook understandably confused.

Each contestant had checked and rechecked their recipes several times. Yet it wasn’t until fresh eyes read the words were the errors revealed.

These sorts of mistakes creep into writing so easily –possibly causing confusion, a drop in professionalism, and even potential embarrassment. Something as simple as dropping one letter from a word quickly turns an article about public areas to pubic areas – and who really wants to talk about those!

While spellcheck is getting better at picking these up – it picked up my tail in the heading above – there’s no guarantee. And as the author, you know what you meant to say, so when you read it, you see what you expect to see.

Case in point – I once attended a presentation where all credibility went out the window when a slide appeared with the line “don’t touch this with a ten-foot pool”. When the presenter read out his slide – as so often happens with PowerPoint –he didn’t even notice the error. He read pole as that was what he meant – but it was not what was on the screen.

Of course sometimes using ‘wrong’ words is done on porpoise to create what is known as a pun. These kinds of puns created by substituting one word for a similar-sounding word even have their own name – Homophonic. Great word, perfectly descriptive. “A good pun is its own reword”.

You can find more of these online at yourdictionary.com

We are usually quite forgiving when this occurs accidentally in conservation, but writing we expect to be more considered. And as interpreters, it’s even more challenging as we are usually working within tight word counts so our choice of words must be even more carefully considered.

So I’d like to present to you my golden rule of writing. Here it is:

Always, always, ALWAYS get someone else to read and edit your work.

I’d like to leave you with a small challenge. Scattered within this blog are several deliberate mistakes, the wrong words used – you probably noticed them. Annoying right? Iconically, it’s far easier for me to be accidentally funny so I’m not going to tell you how many there are, I’ll leave it up to you to tell me. But if there are more than ten I’ll eat my cat hat.

Sheltering the stories – Whakamarumaru te kōrero paki

Interpreting cultural and heritage values in a modern world

We are only a week away from gathering in ‘Te Maru’ (Timaru) – The place of shelter- and for those of you not joining us here’s a taste on what you’ll be missing!

Whether it’s in a museum, visitor centre or the very landscape we walk within, stories of people – of life and loss, love and family, exploration and settlement – are sheltered. Protected and kept alive via memory and artifact, memorials and landmarks – and most importantly by interactions between people.

Our annual workshop this year is being co-hosted by Te Ana: Ngāi Tahu Rock Art Centre, which officially opened on December 10, 2010 at the historic Lands and Services Building in Timaru.

Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre

Photo courtesy Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre

Eight years in the making, the centre is a place to discover the local Ngāi Tahu stories of food-gathering, of whakapapa, of rohe (land boundaries), of wahi tapu, of rest and rituals in cave shelters nearby.  As you enter the centre, you are invited to follow in the footsteps of the ancestors, to explore the place of Māori rock art in the world, both past and present.

Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre

Photo courtesy Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre

Its development is a story in itself, and we are privileged at our workshop to have the tale presented from two sides:  Amanda Symons curator, and Ashley and Faith of Story Inc

You can see more images of Te Ana on both the Te Ana Rock Art Centre and Story Inc websites.

Māori heritage is not only of the past – it is a continuum of life that continues to unfold today. The most recent tangata whenua exhibition to open at Waikato Museum “Ngaa Pouwhenua – the Land, the People, the Dreams” aims to to bridge the gap between historical ‘Māori’ exhibitions and current Iwi practice. Ngaa Pouwhenua asks Iwi members of all ages what it means to be Tainui today.

Ngaa Pouwhenua exhibition, Waikato Museum.

Ngaa Pouwhenua exhibition, photo courtesy Waikato Museum.

Moana Davey, Tangata Whenua Concept Leader at Waikato Museum, will be sharing with us her experiences with developing Ngaa Pouwhenua, which tested the true meaning and value of partnerships between museum and Iwi.

Ngaa Pouwhenua exhibition, Waikato Museum

Ngaa Pouwhenua exhibition, photo courtesy Waikato Museum

She will be just one of the hosts on our ‘World Café’ panel, talking about the challenges of ‘Interpreting cultural and heritage values in a modern world’. Our other confirmed hosts are Kate Woodhall of Te Papa, and Mandy Home, of Arowhenua Runaka.

Aoraki / Mt Cook.

Aoraki / Mt Cook photo S Webb.

Ko Aoraki te maunga
Ko Waitaki te awa
Ko Waitaha, ko Kati Mamoe
ko Rapuwai, ko Kāi Tahu nga iwi
Ko Te Hapa o Niu Tireni te wharenui
Ko Arowhenua te marae

We would have no workshop without the willingness of people to share their stories with us. And we look forward to hearing from you, our network members as part of the weekend’s show and tell session on Sunday.

For those of you who can’t make it to Timaru due to time, geography or other commitments, we’d love you to still share with us your own experiences with cultural story-telling. Go to our Facebook page to upload a photo, video, link or status report on our wall.

Ka kite anō au i a koutou.

Postscript:  Māori heritage is foundational and central to all New Zealand heritage

Recently the Treaty Tribunal released its report on the Wai 262 claim. Lodged in October 1991, the Wai 262 claim is about the place of Māori culture, identity and traditional knowledge in New Zealand’s laws, and in government policies and practices. It marks a new more positive phase of partnership between Crown and Maori,beyond grevience and into a future-focused relationship.

It also concerns the place in contemporary New Zealand life of core Māori cultural values such as the obligation of iwi and hapū to act as kaitiaki (cultural guardians) towards taonga (treasured things) such as traditional knowledge, artistic and cultural works, important places, and flora and fauna that are significant to iwi or hapū identity.

For more info go to: http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/news/media/wai262.asp

iPads and pre-schoolers – confessions of a perplexed parent

Child using iPad.

Ryan has fun at preschool using the iPad; photo courtesy Above and Beyond Education.

OK I admit it – my nearly-three-year-old daughter is more familiar with iPads than I am. It’s not hard – I think I have only just fully realised I am raising a “screen-ager”. Once they started appearing at her preschool, I should have realised that if I didn’t catch up soon, I was going to be left behind; and possibly speaking an entirely different language according to the latest scrabble dictionary!

The infamous Douglas Adams came up with a set of rules that describes our reactions to technology;

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things. 

So perhaps I should not be surprised that my daughter asked for a ‘pink ‘puter’ for her third birthday. Although I was still a little taken aback when I spotted one in a local café being used by a similarly-sized girl. She was colouring while mum drank coffee. Not a lidless felt-tip in sight.

Children using laptop; S Mankelow

Josie and William Webb of Christchurch both learned their ABCs thanks to programmes like 'Letterland'.

I must admit, iPads are particularly well-suited to the preschool market. They are small and compact – much like many pre-schoolers. They have no power cords to trip on, chew on or get caught on. You can carry them and plonk them down anywhere you (or the child) likes. They are instantly on – which cuts down on whinge-time. They are intuitive to use – kids touch everything and these things are made to be touched! No keys to bash and get stuck up with nutella.

And according to i-TUNES, over 20,000 educational Apps (May 2011). But of course, like with all media, not all Apps are created equal. It’s easy to get excited about the possibilities, without first checking if the experiences you are buying into are quality ones.

Luckily there are plenty of websites and blogs to help; this is just a few:

www.teacherswithapps.com- Founded by two teachers this site reviews educational apps, under the premise that they are the tools of the future, if used responsibly.

www.adesontheweb.com – This site posts reviews of apps being used by Apple Distinguished Educators; searchable by name or grade level.

www.momswithapps.com – Moms with Apps is a collaborative group of family-friendly developers seeking to promote quality apps for kids and families.

ictece.blogspot.com – This NZ blog focuses on issues relating to children and teachers using Information and Communication Technology in education.

blog.core-ed.org/  – CORE Education is a NZ non-profit organisation devoted to education.

And of course, if iPads are useful in formal education, what is their potential role in informal learning situations such as museums and visitor centres? Our July newsletter highlights Tauranga Art Gallery’s first go at incorporating iPads into the Lynley Dodd exhibition.  On pedestals child-high; yeah they had a clear idea of their target audience.

New Plymouth Museum Puke Ariki launched an iPad-based visitor experience in August last year, claiming to be the first in New Zealand to deploy iPads for public use in a museum. Their story can be found at www.nzmuseums.co.nz/

And a partnership between DOC and University of Otago’s Centre of Design will see a trial of iPads use in the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre launched during Conservation Week this September. See the story in our newsletter or find out more on the DOC website http://www.doc.govt.nz.

Imagine visitors wandering around your art gallery, centre, museum or park with an interactive App that encourages them to look at details and discover connections to their own lives. It’s getting closer every day.

Foodprinter; Latitude Research.

Latitude Research had children draw the future of technology as they saw it.

According to a study by Latitudeº Research, “Children’s Future Requests for Computers & the Internet,” kids ages 12 and under are predicting that the future of media and technology lies in better integrating digital experiences with real-world places and activities.

Sounds like a mandate for interpretation to me! It’s a brave new world out there – and according to my daughter, it should come in hot pink.