Saturday, December 12, 2009

My advice to Vanda Vitali


After watching a long series of controversies inundate the Auckland War Memorial museum, the institution's Trust Board has finally asked the Director it hired in 2007 a few questions about her performance. True to form, Vanda Vitali has reacted rather badly to the Board's enquiries, and the two parties are now communicating through their lawyers. Auckland mayor John Banks, who has always previously backed Vitali, says that he can't 'see a way forward' from the latest imbroglio.

For a significant number of New Zealanders - former employees of the museum who were sacked for incomprehensible reasons, Maori angered by the weakening of their representation at the institution, admirers of Edmund Hillary saddened by attempts to appropriate parts of the great man's papers, retired servicemen treated with contempt by the Director and her bureaucrats, and museum visitors annoyed by gimmicky, once-over-lightly exhibitions - the puzzle is not that the Board has fallen out with Vitali, but that the confrontation has taken so long to develop.

I worked at the museum in 2007 and 2008, and thus witnessed first-hand the impact Vitali had on the institution. When Vitali climbed aboard late in 2007, the museum was a fairly positive, well-functioning workplace. By the winter of 2008 the museum was in crisis, as Vitali's scorched earth 'restructuring process' folded up whole sections of the institution and robbed more than ninety staff of their old jobs.

Vitali added insult to injury by couching her 'reforms' in a mixture of corporate doublespeak and New Age goobledygook, and by patronising the staff she was throwing out of their jobs. At one mass meeting, she solemnly informed us that she was moving the museum from 'a linear model of organisation to a new, exciting, matrix model', and assured those of us who were having to apply for new, externally-advertised positions that we were 'facing an exciting opportunity, not a threat'. When the latter remarks prompted several barely muffled groans, Vitali insisted that staff who had lost their jobs should be 'thankful' to her for 'believing' in them enough to give them the 'test' they faced.

As a union delegate, I had the honour of meeting face to face with Vitali on a few occasions. At one meeting, which our Public Services Association organiser had hoped might help to educate her in such arcane matters as collective contracts and workers' rights, Vanda announced that when she had been a boss at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History trade unionists had been thin on the ground, and a system of 'instant dismissal' had existed. 'The staff liked it as much as me', she said. 'It was best for everyone'.

As workers with decades of experience disappeared and others either waited for the results of their reapplications or struggled to get to grips with new, oddly constructed job descriptions, core museum services began to suffer from the 'test' Vitali had so kindly devised for her staff. Vitali's response was not to reverse track, but to redefine the tasks of the museum. When curators were so scarce that no one could be found to assess gifts to the museum, the Director announced a 'moratorium' on new acquisitions. Visitors who turned up with beautiful prehistoric artefacts they had dug up on the farm or fragile war diaries their ancestors had preserved were told to take their taonga someplace else.

Vitali didn't have a great deal of reverence for the objects that the museum actually held. When she was told that a shortage of conservators caused by her restructuring meant that artefacts on display were in danger of deteriorating, she replied by pointing out that the museum had lots more 'old stuff' in storage. Couldn't staff just get some of that out and display it instead?

There are many more stories I could tell about Vitali, but there is a risk of blaming her entirely for the recent disasters at the museum, and forgetting that she was hired by the Trust Board, which enthusiastically endorsed her attempts at 'restructuring'. Perhaps we should actually be thankful for Vitali's appalling people skills, encyclopedic ignorance of New Zealand society and history, and inability to think clearly: without the controversies these deficits have created, she might be in a much more secure position, and the damage to the museum might be less reversible.

It can be argued that Auckland museum is one of the sites where two different visions of the role of museums in contemporary society are doing battle. According to the first vision, which has been put forward most forcefully in New Zealand by Hamish Keith, a museum should primarily be a place where the heritage of a community or set of communities is preserved, studied, and communicated. While it is desirable for a museum to be a popular place to visit, the desire for popularity should not trump the need to preserve, study, and educate. Curators, conservators, and ethnologists are more important than publicists, flashing lights, and interactive games.

Keith has been a ferocious critic of Te Papa, which despite its status as New Zealand's National Museum employs only a relatively small number of people to study and maintain its permanent collection. Te Papa displays only a tiny amount of the huge number of artefacts it owns, and seems to aim the texts on its walls at ten year-olds with short attention spans.

Defenders of Te Papa say that museums must make an effort to be more 'contemporary' and 'relevant'. They argue that the public enjoys the look of Te Papa, which with its garish carpets, noisy games, and flashing lights resembles a casino rather than a 'traditional' museum. They say that museums have to compete with movies, computer games, and amusement parks for the 'entertainment dollars' of the public.

Keith and others have argued that the Auckland and the Trust Board hired Vitali because they wanted to 'Te Papaise' Auckland's museum. Vitali's downgrading of the museum's research role, her lack of respect for its permanent collection, her experiments with technological gimmicks like light shows, and her lightweight exhibitions all make the inspiration of Te Papa clear. The criticism Vitali has received from sections of the community and the stagnating attendance figures during her reign suggest that her populism has not been as popular as she might imagine.

Back in 2006, before Vitali had set foot in Auckland, I argued that the very 'traditionalism' of the city's museum - its classical architecture, its quiet, sometimes dimly-lit rooms and corridors, its solemn memorials to the dead, its carefully but unpretentiously presented artefacts from cultures distant in time and, often, space - made it a special place for many Kiwis. In a world of e mail, cellphones and facebook, a world of twenty-four hour news cycles and fashions that last a week, 'traditional' museums can seem 'relevant' precisely because they are so out of tune with the present. They and their staff can remind us of other ways of living and thinking than our own. We may go to museums, not to be 'entertained' or to have our own prejudices confirmed, but to learn something new from artefacts and from the experts who interpret these artefacts.

The following document, which I sent to Vitali when staff were invited to offer 'feedback' on her 'restructuring process', tries to make some of the same points as my 2006 post in less romantic language, and with references to my experiences on the job. I should emphasise that the document, which prompted a rather curt reply from Vanda, was written by me alone, and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of other workers at the museum.

WHY TEACHING HAS TO COME BEFORE 'INSPIRING'

In her 'Proposal for Organisational Structure Change at Auckland Museum', Vanda Vitali argues that the museum's goal should be 'to inspire more than to teach'.

An interview that Vanda did with Metro magazine last year helps us to understand more clearly what she means by 'inspire'. In the interview, Vanda said that she was 'not very keen' on 'didactic' museums. She said potential museum visitors in the twenty-first century are 'bombarded with information' from new technologies like the internet. According to Vanda, people today are able to 'get their own view on things'. Rather than teaching visitors, museums should be 'inspiring' them, by involving them in debates where they test their 'interpretations' against those of others.

In her proposal for Auckland museum, Vanda echoes some of the points she made in her interview with Metro. She argues that Aucklanders are increasingly well-educated and increasingly technologically savvy, citing statistics that show two-thirds of us have an internet connection and two-fifths of us have tertiary education of some sort. Because of these changes, museums must relate to visitors in a different way. Teaching them facts is less important than it used to be; inspiring them by getting to develop and express their interpretations of the facts is more important.

The necessity of teaching

I agree wholeheartedly that museums should 'inspire' their visitors, and avoid 'talking down' to them in a patronising manner. I also agree with Vanda when she argues that museums should be centres of debate, where visitors as well as staff discuss their interpretations of the past and consider what the past can teach us about important contemporary issues.

I think Vanda is mistaken, though, when she counterposes 'teaching' to 'inspiring'. I don't think that teaching and inspiring are two opposing approaches to dealing with museum visitors, and I don't think we should have to choose or emphasise one at the expense of the other. I think that teaching is a prerequisite for inspiring.

Museum visitors can only be inspired to interpret and discuss a subject if they are well-informed about the facts surrounding that subject. Without a good grasp of the facts, they will not be able to create useful interpretations and engage in debates in an intelligent and constructive manner. I therefore think that the museum has to be careful to teach visitors about a subject, before it tries to 'inspire' them and include them in debates.

How well informed?

But how much teaching do museum visitors really need these days? Perhaps they’re well-informed enough, when they step through our doors? In her proposal for Auckland museum and in her interview with Metro, Vanda seems to suggest that, because of advances in technology and wider access to tertiary education, the public is better informed than ever before, and more able to be inspired and join in debates at museums. Vanda suggests that people today are 'bombarded' with facts, and that museums need to help them interpret these facts, rather than to teach them more facts. I want to dispute this argument by discussing the time I have spent working at our museum's Te Kakano Information Centre.

Over the last eight months I have had the pleasure of working for two days a week at Te Kakano. Te Kakano and the other Information Centres are key points of contact between the museum and the public. Staff in the Centres answer questions and help visitors use museum resources like our library and our databases.

During my time at Te Kakano Information Centre I have learned a great deal not only from my wonderful co-workers, but also from some of the fascinating visitors our museum attracts. Te Kakano was set up partly to attract more people from the Maori and Pasifika communities to the museum, and over the past eight months I have been privileged to hear the stories of members of those communities who have stopped by the Centre to use our resources and chat.

But there has been another, less satisfactory side to working at Te Kakano Information Centre. Time and time again, I have noted the lack of knowledge of some of the most basic facts about Maori history and culture displayed by many non-Polynesian visitors to the museum. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'm going to quote some of the questions that visitors to Te Kakano have asked me in the last couple of weeks:

Is the design of the waka based on Viking principles?

Why did the Maoris kill all the dodos?

Is it true that the Celts were here before the Maori?

Are there any 'Mo-aris' left?

How did the Aborigines get to New Zealand from Australia?


To be fair, I should say that the fourth question was asked by an American visitor. The other questions, though, all came from Kiwis. Te Kakano staff keep an 'Enquiries Register', and it is full of questions just as absurd as the ones I have quoted (my favourite is 'Can you really make bacon out of Kiwis?').

An example of the problem

Some of the biggest misunderstandings surround the status of Maori as the tangata whenua of this country. While there are still vigorous debates about the whens and hows, not one serious scholar doubts that the ancestors of Maori were the first people to settle these islands. The concept of tangata whenua is central to Maori culture and identity, and the fact of Maori indigenity is a fundamental part of New Zealand history and part of the bedrock of the Treaty of Waitangi. Yet I firmly believe that a poll would find that most non-Polynesian visitors to the museum do not believe that Maori are the tangata whenua of this country.

I have heard visitors nominate the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Vikings, the Australian Aboriginals, and American Indians as the first Kiwis. Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of all, though, has surrounded the Moriori people. So many visitors still believe in the myth that the Moriori were pre-Maori inhabitants of the North and South Islands that I had to create a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions to hand out to those enquiring about the subject. This document is unavoidably didactic: using the work of experts in the subject, it discusses and tries to dispel some of the main myths about Moriori history and culture.

I’m not discussing all these misunderstandings in order to ridicule the people who suffer from them. It’s important to remember that many of the people who believe false ideas about Maori history were taught these ideas in schools. I myself can remember being taught the Moriori myth at a state primary school in the 1980s.

Nor do I think I am being pedantic or nerdy by talking about misconceptions about Maori history. I think that, far from being of merely academic importance, these misunderstandings seriously affect the quality of public debate about some of the most important issues in this country. It is notable that the myth of a pre-Maori people, for instance, is often dragged into debates about issues like the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori land rights, and tino rangatiratanga.

Vanda has suggested that fruits of technological advance like the internet have helped to make Aucklanders more ‘sophisticated’ and better-informed. Sadly, though, a lot of the myths about Maori history and pre-Maori settlement are being perpetuated by the internet. For every good, scholarly website about New Zealand history, there seem to be half a dozen run by amateurs peddling myths.

I think that Te Kakano Information Centre, the rest of the museum library, and the museum’s Maori education team play an important role in countering the sort of mistaken ideas about Maori history that I have been discussing. By teaching people about the real history of this country, and showing them resources with which they can further their own understanding, we help them get to a point where they will be able to form useful interpretations of that history, and participate in public debates in a constructive manner.

Of course, it would be much better if people never adopted mistaken ideas in the first place. If children are taught the facts about Maori history and culture, then they will not be susceptible to pseudo-history later on. This is one of the reasons why I think that Maori education team does such an important job at our museum. I have watched the team guide groups of schoolchildren through the Maori Court, informing and entertaining them at the same time. The young people who have had the privilege of being taught for an hour or two by the team will be well on the road to developing a good understanding of the real history of our country. They will be able to develop their own interpretations of that history, and participate properly in public debates about our history and its relevance to our future. They won’t fall victim to the sort of myths that are still believed by too many Kiwis.

Conclusion

I have agreed with Vanda Vitali’s goal of inspiring visitors to the museum, and getting them involved in exciting debates about different interpretations of the past which our museum preserves.

But worthwhile interpretations and debates have to be grounded in historical fact. Sadly, many visitors to our museum are still struggling to develop a command of the basic facts of Maori history and culture. For this reason, the pedagogical work done by Te Kakano Information Centre, the museum library as a whole, and the Maori education team is vital. This work must be maintained and extended.

27 Comments:

Blogger Giovanni said...

Vanda announced that when she had been a boss at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History trade unionists had been thin on the ground, and a system of 'instant dismissal' had existed. 'The staff liked it as much as me', she said. 'It was best for everyone'.

There is one recommendation of the 2025 Taskforce report that hasn't been commented on so far as I know, and it is that we should relax (if not abolish altogether) all employee protections for executives or in fact anybody earning more than $100,000. I can suddenly see the merit in that.

Speaking as one who liked Te Papa a great deal more under Southeran than in its current more conservative incarnation, the more substantive part of your post was very good too - thanks for this.

8:26 am  
Blogger Edward said...

“gimmicky, once-over-lightly exhibitions” and “robbed more than ninety staff of their old jobs” are two of the main reasons I dislike Vitali’s ‘management’ of NZ’s best Museum.

I agree one hundred percent with Hamish Keith, that museums should be foremost “a place where the heritage of a community or set of communities is preserved, studied, and communicated.” I also agree fully with his critique of Te Papa, NZ’s National “Museum”, to use the term lightly. Vitali’s treatment of museums and the artefacts they hold are, like Te Papa, more akin to post-modernist ideals where the point is to ‘entertain and inspire’ rather than to educate. Leading on from this the relativistic nonsense of touchy-feely 'all interpretations are equal' bull oozes its way into institutions which deal with facts, not wearable art.

To this end we end up with ridiculous ‘exhibits’ of broken and tattered dolls with red flashing lights and horrible dioramas of a conservator’s lab where things are willy nilly strewn around the room including a baby orangutan stuffed into a fridge – i’m sure the museum’s conservators really appreciated all of their hard work and meticulous dedication to the objects they work with being portrayed to the public in such a haphazzard light. I personally don’t like at all the post-modernist approach to museums – I think they dumb down the content in favor of visual entertainment more akin to a New York art gallery crossed with a pokemon movie and a wii game.

And as for the firing of 90 staff and the downsizing of the museums research output (there wasn't enough research done as it was!! Does Vitali even bother to learn anything about NZ heritage sector??), I think that was the top of a very slippery slope.
It's a typical relativistic post-modernist approach where you throw the baby out with the bathwater cobined with justifying firing dedicated staff by spinning rhetoric.
As you can tell, Vitali grinds my gears, as she does many others who work in the sector.

10:13 am  
Blogger The Paradoxical Cat said...

Excellent post maps. Thanks so much for all the work you do to educate - and inspire.

I always wondered about teh dodos. I guess the answer to that one will be found on that magnificent source of online information known as wikipedia, that is relegating actual facts obselete.

2:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin Doutre says that the Maori Court at the museum should be renamed the Celtic Court. Because white people made the items there.

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kia ora Maps.

Thanks for this behind the scenes report, which tends to confirm one's worst imaginings about the Vitali reign.
I was startled to hear Naida Glavish on the radio today singing Vitali's praises on behalf of Ngati Whatua. A week ago, Bob Harvey was also vociferously supporting her. She has obviously made friends as well as enemies.

Naa,
Airihi.

8:18 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I don't think we need to throw out "postmodernism" Edward - but one can imagine the WORST aspects of that movement (it is not all extreme relativism) being adopted by Vitali and also her (really right wing) agenda - which would not be shared by all who are interested in certain modern or even postmodern art ideas and so on...I think Maps is right again on this - he emphasises that we need to teach but we also need, indeed to inspire, but Vitali is clearly not really interested in either.

She is a kind of Roger Douglas of ART and science..museums need to be holy places but also places of preserve and fascination but also places of stimulation - my own grandson loved the children's part (and the Maori exhibition and entertainment - explication) - it is great.

But childrenn (and adults) are fascinated by all aspects of things and we don't need to bow to some theoretical scenario of populism. There is also a huge ignorance as Maps points out.

This is a great post and critique again...I seem to be always praising my friend but I will criticise if I see something to critique but I cant see much!

I think Maps himself should take over curating and directing the museum - I am serious. He is a New Zealander and has a PhD, he is passionate about truth itself and about our heritage and history, has great skills in communication and would certainly show a human face to his staff. The Auckland War Memorial Museum would be both "didactic" and creative...and our past, Pakeha and Maori, would be honoured.

We need to convince those in power in Auckland etc that he or someone of his kind is the person for this job not this disrespectful and batty Vitali woman.

12:54 am  
Blogger Edward said...

Fair point Richard. I probably sounded more harsh than intended. I think there are many parts of the 'postmodern critique' which are very useful indeed, and have entered into discourse and enhanced many different aspects of various disciplines
(internal bias for example). And I know that extreme relativism isn't the central hub of postmoderism, though the fact that I despise extreme relativism might be a reason why I have an especial disdain for what's going on at the museum. That and the, as you point out, apparent right-wing agenda of its director ('restructuring'/firing staff; instant dismissals etc.).

I do agree with you and Maps though, that there is a need to inspire also. I just question whatever 'inspire' is meant to mean taking precedent over the communication of knowledge (although, back to the P.Modernist rhetoric, perhaps there is no such thing as 'knowledge'? (excuse me while I vomit)). I suppose I should give credit where credit is due however, as you say if the kids are especially enjoying some aspects that is great.

I am just very weary of the P.M. movement in museum studies where they seem to (in some cases) have thrown out all together anything related to positivism or objectivity in favor of treating culture and its artefacts as spectacles merely to entertain rather than to inform (kind of like a circus). Often context is sacrificed to the modern god of subjectivity. In a perverse way, it is almost as if such theories have bent so far one way they have ended up where they were in the 19th century.

Anyway, I second your idea - lets get Maps or some like minded person in there. Someone who cares about the context and the objects themselves.

9:31 am  
Blogger Sanctuary said...

Vitali's saga at the Auckland war memorial museum, with its "encyclopedic ignorance of New Zealand society and history" seems to me to yet again demonstrate the folly of our national fondness of seeking foreigners for positions of pivotal cultural importance in our own country.

I don't think it is a racist observation to say that being a New Zealander is an important part of the qualifications for running such an institution, and if a good New Zealand candidate exists that should be the first person appointed to the role.

9:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Sanctuary you are right!

10:01 am  
Anonymous mike said...

Sanctuary's comment about non-NZers holding executive positions at NZ heritage institutions is timely indeed.

Although one does risk sounding xenophobic, isn't what has happened at Te Papa & Auckland Museum, just the latest form of cultural colonialism? An insensitivity to local conditions and ideas, a chance to "experiment" on a grand scale.

In a sense it's all very ironic, considering the imperialistic model of the old museums.

I used to love the old Buckle Street Dominion Museum in Wellington: the spiders in the glass cases, the moa, the wharenui, the mummies, the Frank Brangwyn murals. Perhaps in retrospect it followed the imperialistic model = but to this eye it was wonderful, an enchanting place. There is very little enchantment about Te Papa.

(If one seeks the lingering aura of the empire we once belonged to - for better and worse - you can still go to botanical gardens and soak it up.)

Perhaps one factor has been the "republican" Pakeha nationalism of historians like James Belich and others of his generation, even Michael King - a nationalism that cringes at NZ's British roots, while inventing a new "old" mythology.

IMHO, there seems to have been a powerful resonance between these local revisionists and the radical paradigm shifters in museum studies.

10:46 am  
Anonymous albeen said...

Not surprised at Naida's tautoko of the French Canadian. It must be hard not to be seduced by enducements such as trips to Paris, if you are the type who is easily bedazzled by the baubles of office. Pity she didn't think to check out the situation for Maori at the Museum - both staff (whose numbers now, as others have also noted, are severely depleted) and the collection entrusted to their care. Indeed, not just any old collection but the pre-eminent collection of Maori taonga in the world.

The former Maori Staff Team at the Museum which had been slowly built up over time, was dismantled without compunction by Vitali with the help of her little management clique. This select little group has been groomed in her own image to do her bidding without question or demur. Sadly, it also includes the Maori boy (suggested by pakeha men)who replaced the former Maori Director Dr Paul Tapsell.

Unlike the pre-Vitali situation where Maori staff operated in a collective, collegial manner, this new boy on the block's style is individualistic, chauvinistic and full of his own self importance.

So yes, unless Naida suddenly sees the light, looks like the French Canadian tauiwi woman will continue to 'enjoy' her support. In the meantime, said woman will no doubt continue on with her deplorable treatment of Museum staff, including Maori staff and even more ironically,Maori women staff.

10:35 pm  
Anonymous Jono said...

Albeen, I know the "Maori boy" at the ARC before he moved to Tauranga; not well, but enough to know he is a good egg. If you had condescended to him personally the way you have done in this blog I wouldnt be surprised if he let you know where to stick it. You seem to have a personal axe to grind, in which case maybe you should front up and give us full disclosure.

1:22 pm  
Blogger maps said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Legal action may result from this post.

10:40 am  
Blogger maps said...

Some very interesting comments here. I agree completely with Mike and Sanctuary about the need for a Director who understands the cultures which produced the taonga that the museum holds.

Vitali made it abundantly clear from the time
of her appointment that she neither knew nor cared about New Zealand society and history. In her inaugural address she ommitted even to mention the special place of Maori culture and history in the museum - a place that is mandated not only by the Treaty of Waitangi but by the 1996 Auckland Museum Act.

I also think that there needs to be a discussion about the extent of the powers which the Director of the museum is given. Is it really necessary to have a single figure with such sweeping powers
running the museum, however well-intentioned he or she may be? Why can we not have a more collegial atmosphere, with workers and the communities the institution served involved in discussing exhibition programmes and other key aspects of policy? And why can't the Trust Board which appointed Vanda be either elected or else composed by nominated representatives of communities that the museum serves, as well as staff?

Hamish Keith is calling for the sacking of the Director and the Board and a public inquiry into the disasters at the museum. I think this is a good idea.

I believe that, once Vanda has gone and the gagging orders she has imposed on many former staff members are meaingless, a great deal of damning new evidence about the behaviour of her and her management clique will emerge.

11:29 am  
Blogger Floating Cinemas said...

An interesting thing to come across. I've had very little time to find out what was going on at the museum. Your experience reminds me of the time I worked under Chris Pangloss Saines at the ACAG. As regards your mentioning of myths about pre-European NZ, I'm currently reading David Simmons' The Great New Zealand Myth. Apparently he was the director of the Maori collection for many years at the Ak Museum. Simmon's scholarship exposes many false orthodoxies and it is disgraceful that it hasn't been republished since the mid 70s.

9:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AS someone who worked under Vitali at the Natural History Museum in LA, I can tell you she "Vanda-lized" us just as badly...and NO...the staff didn't like almost anything she concocted...lot's of arrogant psuedo-artsy rantings to cover the fact she really isn't very good at museum work...or appreciative of those who genuinely are.
We were all SO afraid for all of you when we heard she got the job...may your board wise up faster than ours did...it's taken a long time to recover from the damage she left in her wake. She hounded, fired or disgusted all the best and brightest and most energized staff....right outta there to other venues.
And I am NOT exaggerating...anything!

3:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous is right. We at NHM in Los Angeles are still recovering our Vanda-lization and it seems we are about to face another round of it from someone who apparently didn't learn the lessons of our painful past. There are smart ways to make change, and there are terrible, cruel ways to make change. Vanda is a model of the worst management has to offer. Why does she pretend to like Museums? Oh, right...vampires have to get close to their prey first...

Good luck, Aukland Museum. Good luck to us both.

1:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles during Vanda's reign of terror and it was a carbon copy experience of what has taken place in Auckland. I have never seen such a small single human being create so much destruction anywhere else. She took a lovely museum and almost single-handedly turned it upside down, torched it, stomped on it, and then took off to ruin the next institution. She must be stopped.

6:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too worked under Vanda during her tenure at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, and I can sympathize with others who complain about her. However despite what has been said or what has been thought, or even what has proven to be true, it is undeniable that the woman has vision. While it may not align with the vision that the scientific staff might have, it is creative vision nonetheless.

She does turn things on their head, but not necessarily in a bad way. Speaking from the standpoint of the museum of natural history in Los Angeles, she put asses in the seats. Apologies for the crude statement. But in truth isn't that half the goal? What's the point of having such rich and diverse collections if we can't get anyone new in here to see them?

While I can agree that Vanda could be a difficult personality to work with and I wouldn't trust her to stand behind me at the edge of cliff, I can still appreciate her ingenuity and vision. Perhaps her methods and tactics could use some revisions though...

12:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As another former staff member of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, our department (which worked alongside of Vanda's Public Programs) would often hear her arguing with other staffers down the hall. It was awkward and we would simply say to ourselves, "Isn't that Vandafull." (Also, I frankly could never understand a single sentence that came out of her mouth. It was usually: noun, "paradigm," buzz-word, verb, "audience," etc.)

9:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the poster who calls Vitali a French Canadian...she is far from that. She was born in Yugoslavia...emigrated to Canada. She speaks French as she was educated in French schools in Africa and Europe. She is NOT and never has been a French Canadian.

8:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well thank goodness that's been straightened out. The only thing preventing me from writing Vitali off as a sociopathic despot with a fondness for dim-witted sycophancy was my firm belief that she was one of those dependable French Canadians. Thanks for helping me see through the dear wee Dali’s brilliant disguise.

10:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vanda Vitali,

Going going...

6:29 pm  
Anonymous Albeen said...

Hey there Jono

Loved your descriptor. have refrained from replying until the time was right. That time has been a long time coming but yep it's finally arrived.

So, let us hope that he doesn't suffer the same fate as that other 'egg' because all things being equal looks like all the queens' horses and all the queens' men may possibly not be around to put him together again.

2:59 pm  
Anonymous Buy Generic Viagra said...

so blessed you're back I thought this was never going to get back up again. One of the best blogs I've come across I love everything I've read this story before, please keep up the awesome work

5:06 am  
Anonymous pharmacy said...

As workers with decades of experience disappeared and others either earth 'restructuring process' folded up whole sections of the institution and robbed more than ninety staff of their old jobs.

9:55 am  

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