By Judith Taylor, Museum Development Adviser – South Island, National Services Te Paerangi
Hurunui / Kaikoura post-earthquake support
A 1860s cob cottage in Waiau, which housed some of the Amuri Historical Society museum collection, was badly damaged in the 2016 Hurunui / Kaikoura earthquake. The collection was housed in the cob cottage and nearby former Waiau Presbyterian Church, both Heritage New Zealand Category 2 buildings.
At the request of Amuri Historical Society, Lynn Campbell (Conservator, Canterbury Disaster Retrieval Team), Joanna Condon (Manager, MacMillan Brown Library) and I travelled to Waiau in December 2016.
We worked with Mary Bowron from Amuri Historical Society to set up a system for registering, photographing, packaging collection items and safely rehousing these into the museum church building. Mary passed on the retrieval methodology to other volunteers to complete the work.
Amuri Historical Society’s Mary Bowron working with Lynn Campbell and Jo Condon, 2016. Photograph by Judith Taylor
There are some really wonderful items in the collection, including an early settler clothing collection from the Waiau area, domestic items, ephemera and a photographic collection. Many items are closely connected with local families. These are treasured taonga.
We recorded and packed over 150 items including over 30 historic garments. Canterbury Museum and McMillan Brown Library generously supplied boxes and tissue.
In January I went back to help with another registration and packing session with volunteers and most items are now safely stored and electronic records made.
The cob cottage at Waiau – earthquake damaged, 2016. Photograph by Judith Taylor
New Kaikoura Museum open
The beautiful new Kaikoura Museum was undamaged and opened just after the earthquake but because the town is still isolated by the temporary closure of the State Highway through to Picton and occasional closure of other roads in from the south, they are only getting about 10 percent of expected visitors. This has severely affected their income levels from entry charges.
Interior of Kaikoura Museum, 2016. Courtesy of Kaikoura Museum
Interior of Kaikoura Museum, 2016. Courtesy of Kaikoura Museum
New manager Stephanie Lange and Curator Pam Garbes in the new Kaikoura Museum, 2016. Photograph by Judith Taylor
After being closed for five years, the Christchurch Art Gallery visitor numbers are about a third lower than pre-quake. Recovery is a long term proposition for most organisations.
Looking for resources on benchmarking and developing your museum’s resilience to disaster: Download the Resilience quick start guides
Flaxbourne Museum, Ward
Further north on the east coast, the Flaxbourne Museum in Ward has a container in place for temporary storage of their collections retrieved from their red stickered building. Fortunately the collection is quite small, and while conditions are not ideal, it allows some breathing space to plan a new home for the museum.
National Services Te Paerangi (NSTP) has lent some digital data loggers so conditions in the container can be monitored and mitigated. Flaxbourne Museum has also purchased packaging materials with assistance from NSTP’s Helping Hands Grant.
Earthquake-prone building closures on the West Coast and in Southland
Earthquake-related issues have also affected museums on the West Coast and in Southland. The threshold for an earthquake-prone building has been raised to one-third of current building code levels. Understanding the implications and terms for building assessment is challenging. In particular, unreinforced masonry buildings are a challenge for the museum sector.
The History House Museum in Greymouth and Hokitika Museum are closed to the public after inspections showed they did not meet minimum standards.
Hokitika Museum staff have been relocated from the historic Carnegie Building, which has been closed as a museum building because the building failed to meet building code standards. The building is currently open to the general public after being reassessed at a different Importance Level (IL) rating.
The IL rates buildings on their importance to society and changes their building code percentage requirements. Most museums would be assessed as IL3: “Structures that may contain crowds, have contents of high value to the community or pose a risk to large numbers of people in close proximity, such as conference centres, stadiums and airport terminals.”
The Earthquake Commission encourages independent review of seismic assessment of existing buildings. As noted in A5-4 of the draft Seismic Assessment of Existing Buildings guidelines: “Any assessment that has been independently reviewed is likely to provide a more robust seismic rating than one based solely on the judgement of one engineer.”
I also met with Wyndham Museum Committee in Southland during visits to regional museum staff in March. Their building tenancy is uncertain following a recent building assessment so they have been working on a project to package the collection in case it has to be moved with assistance from Southland District Council Roving Museum Officer Johanna Massey.
Other news from Southland museums
Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill is planning redevelopment. Additionally, Invercargill Public Art Gallery, formerly Anderson Park Art Gallery, have relocated into the main retail area. The gallery’s previous building was assessed as unsafe and closed more than two years ago. Wider research into regional storage needs and possible establishment of an active arts venue in the city centre is underway.
Bluff Maritime Museum have upgraded their storage area. They are also working on cataloguing, as are Awarua Communications Museum.
Otautau Museum volunteers Suzie Best, Sharon Paulin and Jenny Beck are enjoying the usefulness of their new A4 and A3 printers purchased with funds from NSTP’s Helping Hands Grant. A new exhibition developed by Suzie, Celebrating Women of Otautau and Districts, uncovered some great new stories and has attracted many new visitors to the museum.
Suzie Best, Sharon Paulin and Jenny Beck in the Otautau Museum work and exhibition area, 2017. Photograph by Judith Taylor
Te Hikoi Southern Journey in Riverton has farewelled Manager Carole Power after nine years in the role. Carole has helped establish the museum as a centre for geology activity in the area with a discovery centre in the museum, extension programmes and tours. The Riverton Heritage Society manages the collection, has a research area and plans to extend the building for further storage.
South Otago Museum is continuing with its major inventory project. Curator Gary Ross said “The audit team is working well together. Having items tagged, photographed and even cleaned and rehoused behind us is very exciting.”
An Expert Knowledge Exchange was used to help set up the inventory project and the recommended transfer of collection data into a searchable collection management system has been very helpful. Many items capturing industrial heritage locally and nationally have been recorded.
Health and Safety resources
For museums that are updating health and safety procedures, Worksafe has developed some useful templates you can download.
NSTP is available to help and advise you as you plan and during your museum project. Our on-site and remote advisory services are free and we offer a range of programmes including grants for small museums, training workshops, exchanges, professional development grants, travel subsidies and programmes for all sizes of museums, whare taonga and public collections.