Preserving our audiovisual taonga

Ka nui te ngākaunui o Ramarihi MacDougall ki tana tūranga mahi e kapo haere nei ia i ngā hua a Te Māngai Pāho, otirā ngā hōtaka pouaka whakaata e pāho ana i te ao i te pō. Kua mātanga te wahine nei ki ngā hāora me ngā hōtaka katoa o Whakaata Māori.

Ramarihi MacDougall loves her job. As a Collection Developer, she gets to see and hear a lot of old recordings – and the tīpuna and places they contain. “I’m really lucky, I have a great job!” she says.

Photographs and recordings of tīpuna are incredibly important in te Ao Māori. Ngā Taonga receives many requests to view episodes of programmes like Waka Huia, Marae and our online exhibitions of Ngā Taonga Kōrero sound recordings are very popular. These programmes and recordings have told Māori stories for decades and are an enormously precious resource for Aotearoa. MacDougall (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe) works to collect these recordings, bring them into the Archive and make them accessible. “I capture Māori Television broadcasts and archive other programmes that have received Te Māngai Pāho funding,” she explains. “So that’s content on Māori Television, their Te Reo channel, plus programmes on TVNZ 1: things like Te Karere news that screens weekdays.”

Collection Developer Ramarihi MacDougall
Collection Developer Ramarihi MacDougall.

Te Māngai Pāho (TMP) is the agency that funds the production of content to revitalise te reo and Māori culture. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision has a contract with TMP to record and archive the material they have funded, ensuring that the content that TMP funds is preserved and accessible for current and future generations. In addition to television content, TMP also funds films, apps, music, web series and iwi radio stations – there are 21 of these stations across the country. The aim is to capture and digitise content from these and make them available to the community.

Te Māngai Pāho recently celebrated 25 years of funding Māori broadcasting. Learn more on this ‘Te Karere’ clip.

These archived recordings and the people and places they show can resonate strongly with audiences. “I feel personally connected to the material and to different iwi, different marae that I see,” says MacDougall. “I feel like I’m doing a really worthwhile job that will have benefits for me personally and for my friends and family and New Zealanders – and internationally too. It’s incredible that anyone all over the world can access so many of these recordings once they are uploaded to the online catalogue.”

On top of her regular mahi, another job is accessioning – recording important information about a film or tape and bringing these items into the collections. “I recently did Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen [a 2018 documentary about pioneer filmmaker Merata Mita, made by her son Heperi Mita, who happens to be a work colleague of Ramarihi in the Ngā Taonga Collection Development team] , which was very cool,” says MacDougall. “There are also some legacy tapes from iwi radio stations that need to be digitised and accessioned. It’s amazing to have that material, and it’s all on cassette. I really enjoy that part: it’s so physical actually holding the tapes, as opposed to dealing with digital objects on my screen and online.”

That connection to the physical aspects of recordings was further enhanced on a recent trip. “I travelled to Tūrangi with my colleague Hepi to collect a deposit of recordings from an iwi radio station. It was so great to go to the heart of the station and see how everything worked,” MacDougall enthuses. “And it was wonderful to see what a fabulous job they’re doing with the funding they received.”

Making these connections kanohi ki te kanohi enhances the relationships Ngā Taonga has with its depositors. “When you’re there together face to face, the enthusiasm for the project increases and keeps the motivation going,” she explains. MacDougall is humbled to be part of a chain of events in this project. The broadcast recordings are made, masters are held by the radio station, then these tapes are deposited with Ngā Taonga, digitised and preserved and the end result is access for all New Zealanders. A similar thing happens with Māori Television. “It’s exciting to think that kids, grandkids, neighbours, friends and family can find this digitally preserved recording forever and ever,” says MacDougall.

Collection Developer Ramarihi MacDougall.
Collection Developer Ramarihi MacDougall working on the database.

MacDougall is constantly finding interesting, relevant material. “You come across people who have passed away,” she says. “I do often get emotional due to personal connections with the people or places in the material. You might see family members from years ago and it’s so nice to go back and hear their voice for a couple of minutes. The other day I saw a recording of a friend who had passed away just a couple of years ago – I still miss him a lot. I stopped and listened, had a couple of tears. It was really soothing to hear his voice and think about him.”

This is the value of archives – they help keep alive the memories of people, voices, stories and places that we care about. “The first day I was here, my colleague Gareth Seymour called me over, opened up the online catalogue that’s available to the public on our website, put in my family name and boom: there’s my grandmother screening on an old Te Karere episode. She looked young, and I had a few tears because she’s passed away. Then we searched my dad’s name and a picture of my dad came up and he looks young and really chubby. He’s quite thin now and I went from crying to laughing. All in my first morning of being here. Straight away I thought ‘this is gonna be a great ’.”

They say it’s best if an organisation’s staff are its biggest supporters, and it’s definitely the case with MacDougall. “I feel like I’m forever telling my friends: ‘do this, search for that’. They ask questions like, ‘do you have anything about weaving?’ Oh my gosh we’ve got so much stuff about weaving!” she relates. “My daughter did some research in our Media Library. I told her ‘come in, the staff can help’. She had a ball! She was there for a couple of hours, and gathered lots of information for her uni writing. I’ve heard her saying to her friends ‘you should go to mum’s work. You can look up everything’ – I think she gets side tracked with the amount of things to watch!”

MacDougall is both a supporter of Ngā Taonga and the material she cares for: she enjoys watching Māori Television when she’s not at work. “I love Waka Huia and Marae: the current events shows are great. My favourite show at the moment though is Whiua te Paatai: ‘throw out the question’. It’s a panel show for mature audiences with a big mix of people: different ages, sexualities and backgrounds. It’s rather risqué with the type of questions they ask. It’s very, very funny and I hope there’s a second season. It’s subtitled too”.

Future generations will be able to chew over the risqué questions of Whiua te Paatai as the show gets recorded and kept in the Archive. Those questions might not seem so taboo 50 years from now, but it’s certain that people will enjoy watching them and may feel a personal connection to some of those involved with the show.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision website.

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