Accounting with Autahi
My mahi in the Museum is financial accounting. Each day as I walk through the Nature gallery to my office I pass familiar taonga – kekeno (New Zealand fur seal), paikea (humpback whale) remains and kōura (crayfish) – that connect me back home to Kaikōura. Before moving to Dunedin I never lived more than a kilometre from the ocean and could either see it, hear it, was on it or in it.
When the ocean is such a central feature of your life, understanding, respecting and appreciating marine environments and how they sustain life becomes fundamental.
Image: Otago’s Ocean Exhibit, Nature Gallery; Otago Museum
By far the most impressive taonga I see each day is the popoingore (Leopard seal) – Autahi. My memories of working with Whale Watch, Kaikōura, (besides being up early to see the sun rise and of course the whales) is seeing the astounded reactions of people encountering marine mammals for the first time. I often walk past visitors in the gallery standing in front of Autahi’s display having a similar astonished marine mammal encounter – but in a museum.
I like the way she offers multiple stories, of her own animal self, the significance of her name, and particularly how her articulated skeleton with the taxidermy mount reminds us that she was a real animal, and thus worthy of respect.
But being an accountant, let’s talk te reo pāngarau – the language of maths! Maths is really important to my role in finance as well as for collection managers, curators, our designers, shop and café staff. Maths is everywhere in the Museum.
These are the four main tools we use in accounting…
Using the bone counts in different parts of Autahi’s skeleton I’ve created an accountant's interpretation (spreadsheet) of the display – essentially an audit of Autahi to see how the bones add up.
Doing this audit we’ve found there are a few more bones than were originally reported during the articulation project so the next step in accounting (well in this case for the curators) is reconciling the difference.