Due to COVID, Motuti Marae was closed for three months to conservation staff and the public as it operated as a kainga or village, so Project manager Whina Te Whiu applied to the Museum Hardship Fund to ensure its collection of 19th century taonga and Catholic relics could be kept safe.
Over the years the marae has become a repository for all number of objects including historical manuscripts, a sizeable collection of early printed material, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, letters and maps pertaining to Māori history, Hokianga and New Zealand history particularly late 19th and early 20th century.
Cared for by nine voluntary staff members Nga Kaihoe, these objects were being held at a number of sites as Raiātea their final repository was being built. Their final resting place is to be a tribal whare taonga; a resource centre, museum and archives that is to be managed by Ngati Tamatea.
During any construction period, collection objects need careful monitoring though given the fluid nature of these buildings and their functions it was difficult to find a safe, secure place for storage. In an assessment in August it was established that a number of textiles in the Te Kōhanga Centre had suffered the greatest harm; this is due to the fact that the centre became emergency housing during COVID.
To ensure the ongoing protection of these taonga, we applied to the Museum Hardship Fund for a conservation assessment with a view to re-housing at-risk items and for funds to purchase archival materials.
On top of this, we invested in a temperature and light system that allows us to adjust for the changing environment and, soon, we will run a five day wānanga to equip our kaimahi with skills and knowledge to ensure they can care for these taonga in emergency situations.
Unlike many Western-style museums, this whare taonga is part of a living village and with that comes risks and opportunities, so we’re looking to develop a model that suits the needs of our community whilst providing a safe environment for these important historical relics.