Music Industry Careers: Ruby Satele

  • Name: Ruby Satele
    Hometown: Christchurch, ancestral villages in ‘Upolu, Savai'i and Tutuila (American Samoa)
    Job: Library Assistant (Pasifika) at the Archive of Maori and Pacific Music
    Education: BA in Archeology from University of Otago (with help from wonderful parents, student loan and allowance, part-time job in the college cafeteria and school holiday job at Tegel), PGDipArts and MA in Museums and Cultural Heritage at University of Auckland, researching the history and significance of the selu (decorative Samoan comb).

    What inspired you to work at the Archive?
    History is really interesting to me, especially material culture - those are the physical objects, resources and spaces that people use to define their culture. I really appreciate what we have today that tells us the story of our ancestors and our culture today. I was working part-time in public libraries and was looking for a full time role after I finished my Masters' studies. When the role came up for a library assistant in the Music Archive, I thought I didn't have experience with that, but I kind of fit in a way. I grew up playing piano for church so I do have experience with music, and also as part of my undergrad one of my minor subjects was music technology. So it was a pretty new role for me in terms of music, but I brought forward my other skills.

    Tell us about what you do!
    I will be enhancing and creating descriptive metadata for the Pasifika recordings in the Archive. (Metadata provides information about a certain item's content. For a sound recording, metadata might be how long the recording is, where was made, what kind of music it is and what language it is.).

    We're still trying to learn what our collection is, to have the correct metadata, some of the spelling, meaning of translations, which is why they were looking for someone who understands Pacific languages. I will be working with all of the Pacific collection. I'm fluent in Samoan but will probably seek out help for some other languages.

    What are some of the skills and qualities important for your role?
    Volunteering can really open up pathways to learning new skills. I learned a lot from volunteer work I did at Auckland Museum about cataloguing (making an organized list of the museum items) and learning particular cataloguing systems. I was told it was one of the most important things on my CV when I applied for my role. It's important to be open to learning new things. I have to learn new technology and new equipment. And be open to learning about other cultures. Part of my role is having to contact the stakeholders of the materials in the archive. These are the people we have to ask permission to share the recordings with others who are doing research. So that was kind of scary for me, talking to people I don't know! So I have to be courageous in that.

    What are the rewarding aspects of your role?
    As a completely new team, we face number of challenges but seeing the bigger picture and remembering what we are there for sees us through it. We are here to help preserve the culture of our people. It's a work that I'm honored to be a part of. Another rewarding aspect of the job is seeing our people connect with their ancestors. There was a student who found a recording in the archive of her grandpa that she has never met! Another person accessed recordings of both her grandparents songs found in the archive in preparation for her family reunion. You can sense the joy of these individuals, which just makes our day.

    This role has reshaped the way I perceive our material culture. Coming from a museum background, for me the tangible objects use to be the focus of telling the stories. Since taking on this role, I've come to appreciate what sound and music offers. I'm still learning to explore cultural history through this avenue.
    Sometimes I'm reminded of the irony of it all because I have partial hearing impairment which can be challenging. But whatever you set your heart on, no matter your level of ability, you can accomplish it as long as you work hard and persevere.