More Details on Policy Research

Marit seemed interested in hearing more about my research on Iziko’s Collection and Exhibition policies, so I decided to make another post focussing on what I have learned. I cannot share my official report on the blog, as it contains direct quotes some private Iziko documents. However I can give you an overview of what the report was about and the key issues I focused on. 

During the past month, I have learnt of Iziko’s mission  “To manage and promote Iziko’s unique combination of South Africa’s heritage collections, sites and services for the benefit of present and future generations,” and I have noticed several areas in which administrative efforts could be made to further adhere to this statement. The purpose of this document is to strengthen Iziko’s awareness of the new CAPS curriculum of South African primary and secondary schools, so that when students visit they can make tangible connections between Iziko exhibitions and their coursework. In order for Iziko to provide students all of its relevant resources, the curatorial and collection staff should work hand in hand with the education staff when making acquisitions and designing exhibitions. Though the following report focuses on the Art department, it contains suggestions pertaining to the Social History and Natural History Collections and Exhibition policies; as well as a description of the research and experience that went into making these suggestions. Under objective seven, you will find a list of the documents I have read during my research on Collection and Exhibition Policy. 

Over the past month, I learnt of Iziko’s mission  “To manage and promote Iziko’s unique combination of South Africa’s heritage collections, sites and services for the benefit of present and future generations,” and I noticed several areas in which administrative efforts could be made to further adhere to that statement. The purpose of my report was to strengthen Iziko’s awareness of the newly passed CAPS curriculum used by South African primary and secondary schools; so that when students visited, educators could design programs with tangible connections between Iziko’s exhibitions and the coursework. In order for Iziko to provide visiting students with all of its relevant resources, I suggested that the curatorial and collection staff work hand in hand with the education staff when making accessions and deaccessions to the collection and while designing exhibitions. Though my report focused on the Art department, it also contained suggestions that pertained to the Social History and Natural History Collections and Exhibition policies; as well as a description of the research and experience that went into making those suggestions. 

During the month of July I led a series of meetings with Nadjwa Damon (substitute head of Natural History Education) and Lindixwa Mahlasela (head of Social History Education) in order to establish what the education department needed from the collection policy. Our first meeting brought purpose to my research, and addressed the fundamental challenges of the education staff; including the lack of multilingual education programs, interactive education spaces, and interdepartmental communication amongst museum staff; but especially the need to incorporate the input of educators in collection and exhibition decisions. A follow-up to this meeting occurred a week later; during which Lindixwa, Annette, Nadjwa and I created lists of subjects covered by the caps curriculum that the collections did not have material relevant to, in hopes that these objects would be prioritized by the acquisition committee. I then went on to discuss potential changes in the collection and exhibition policies with Andrea Lewis, Riason Naidoo, and other members of Iziko staff. Those conversations were perhaps the most helpful in developing my report because they gave me a realistic perspective of the way Iziko administration functions. All of the suggestions I made in my report were intended to which are intended to hone exhibitions and collections procedures so that in the future they could be made more relevant and engaging to students, who make up the majority of museum visitors. 

Some of the actions I proposed at first seemed elementary to me, but while at the National Gallery I became very aware of issues of under-funding and under-staffing. The National Gallery currently has a twelve person staff that functions on a budget that is 20% of what  it was in 2011, and there is little transparency amongst SANG employees, as well as Iziko as a whole.

 
 
 
I hope that answers your questions Marit, let me know if you’d like to know more!
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