In Conversation with Dina Jezdic
Dina gave a memorable presentation on widening museum audiences at our conference in Melbourne last year and we’re excited to hear her share her latest thinking in Brisbane this March.
We caught up with Dina to find out what we can expect.
Can you tell us a little about your museum?
Auckland War Memorial Museum, Tāmaki Paenga Hira is New Zealand’s first Museum. Apart from being an encyclopaedic Museum, our focus is to tell the story of New Zealand/Aotearoa, its place in the Pacific and its people. The Museum is also a war memorial for the province of Auckland and holds one of the country’s top three heritage libraries.
It has pre-eminent Māori and Pacific collections, significant natural history resources and major social and military history collections, as well as decorative arts and pictorial collections.
It is located in the Auckland Doman also called Pukekawa meaning ‘hill of bitter memories’ that refers to pre-European Māori tribal battels over this rich volcanic soil overlooking the Waitematā harbour.
Like many museums of early 20th century, the building is of Greco-Roman design and a home to many colonial spoils.
You’ll be speaking in Brisbane about your work exploring power and privilege, how have you been doing that?
Through public programming and specifically LATE at Auckland Museum we aim to enable honest and open dialogues that are collaborative, participatory and socially responsible, focused on highlighting and celebrating those that were, or continue to be marginalised. Primarily through our panel discussions we engage our audiences and continue to contribute to the wider sphere of social justice discourse and discussion.
Really what we’re trying to do is frame a conversation about access and availability of information and providing context for communities to analyse present-day issues and topics. There is a general shift away from academic knowledge as the main occupier of space and conversation, and that individual lived experience, previously marginalised experiences, are now on the fore-front of discussions and recognised as just as important, if not more so. The diversity of thought contributes to a conversation that is so much richer. Through this exertion of individual agency and positioning these experiences centre stage, we champion authenticity, and audiences no longer just “relate” but instead find themselves inspired.
What surprised you about this work?
Power and privilege are not new concepts. They’ve been taking centre stage now for a really long time, but even so, it seems that not everyone has a full understanding of their implications, including me, and I guess that’s the whole point. It was surprising to see the conversation become so complex and the intersections of privilege that are completely intertwined with our education system, criminal and justice system, gender, sexuality, race and culture… people quantified as statistics. Who you are and what you’re born into can practically pre-determine the journey of your life.
It’s an enormous opportunity for the Museum to be a catalyst and an enabler for those individuals that are trying and succeeding in making the personal, political.
What was so surprising and refreshing was that we – as an often very prescriptive institution – can achieve even more when we allow ourselves to be more irreverent. It was inspiring to use our very enormous museum privilege and power in these ways with full awareness of who and what we are, to make space for other voices.
What could other museums learn from what you’ve been doing?
I don’t think it’s about learning from what we’re doing, I think it’s about learning from those who want to help us to be relevant. It boils down to authentic relationships and commitment to those relationships where mana (prestige)/power, aroha (love) and access is shared both ways.