By Judith Taylor, Museum Development Adviser – South Island, National Services Te Paerangi
Sadly, as I was writing this post, another severe earthquake struck New Zealand, this time near Kaikoura and Cheviot on the east coast of the South Island. Wellington was also affected. Museums have reported damage ranging from minor to severe, and we are waiting on more updates and detail.
Our thoughts are with all the museum people and communities who put their heart and soul into their museums, especially the Kaikoura Museum team whose beautiful new building was due to reopen on 23 November.
National Services Te Paerangi (NSTP) offers support to help museums prepare for and recover from earthquakes and other disasters. We are here to help. Please contact us if we can assist.
Dealing with the unexpected
The Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team specialises in advice and training on saving cultural collections from disasters. NSTP recently supported a disaster recovery training workshop in Christchurch for 31 museum staff and volunteers from around New Zealand. NSTP supports these workshops because they develop sector awareness and capacity in planning, preparation and retrieval methods for unexpected events, from smaller floods to major disasters. The hands-on experience is also a great way to build teams and bond with other museum people while learning essential skills.
Fire scenario at Woolston Fire Station. Image courtesy of Lyndsay Ainsworth.
Retrieval day at Woolston Fire Station. Image courtesy of Lyndsay Ainsworth.
Developing tours at Marlborough museums
Recently an Expert Knowledge Exchange took place in in Marlborough. Keith Lees, a Tour Host from Te Papa, worked with several museums to help further develop and deliver exciting tours. Some of these were trialled at the recent Heritage Week.
Edwin Fox Manager, Karen McLeod, with volunteer Chris Brown (left) and Keith Lees (right). Image courtesy of Steve Austin, Marlborough Museum.
Some other developments from the Marlborough region have included:
- Marlborough District Museum recently held a ‘Meet the Dead’ morning, where people could see some of the preserved animals held at the museum. On display was a Forest Ringlet butterfly; the rarest butterfly in New Zealand and a new addition to the collection.
- Edwin Fox Maritime Centre tours will incorporate aspects of the story about saving and conserving the ship on their tours.
- Renwick Museum recently celebrated their redeveloped exhibition area. A Helping Hands Grant was used to support this work. In the future, museums in the area may work together to offer a combined tour programme.
Many museums in the south are reassessing or rationalising their collections. The first steps towards rationalisation are carrying out an inventory, cataloguing accessioned items and assessing their significance.
Cromwell Museum has been working on a rationalisation project. For Cromwell Museum, the first step was to write a new mission and a collections policy. This gave them background criteria against which to assess object relevance. Their collection was inventoried and then recorded more extensively into eHive, an affordable museum collection database.
Want to assess the significance of your collection? Significance 2.0 is a useful tool.
Cromwell Museum and others are following the recommended steps to safely deaccession, transfer or eventually dispose of items that don’t fit their museum’s mission or collection development direction, are duplicates, are in very poor condition, or are unable to be adequately cared for in the museum. Proceeds of any sales will be put back into care of the collection and the process is recorded, publicised and fully transparent.
Although it’s tempting to quickly dispose of objects that may seem irrelevant at first glance, research needs to be carried out first. If records are searched and donors can be found, items should be offered back to donors. Careful steps are needed to avoid loss of support for the museum and any negative publicity for the museum. The upside is that the record checking, documentation and research that needs to be carried out may uncover apparently humble items that have deep historical significance and that could become new centrepieces for your museum’s unique stories.
Helpful guidelines for this process:
Regular regional museum meetings, with hosting duties rotated around museums, continue to be a great way to get know other museums and their collections, share news, find out about more ways to make changes and talk about group needs and plans. A recent meeting of museums from North Otago and Mid and South Canterbury, hosted by South Canterbury Museum, included a presentation and Q+A session from Volunteering Canterbury about how to work with, and retain, volunteers.
A focus group participant shared a report about Te Papa’s innovation hub, Mahuki, and we went on a behind the scenes tour at the South Canterbury Museum to see their new exhibitions in development. South Canterbury are using their in house resources to further develop skills at the same time as designing new long term exhibitions. They have come up with a clever new design for easy to use museum cases that they were happy to share with the group.
Other news from museums in the south
The Methven Museum redevelopment project is coming along well. Methven lost their small museum in the Canterbury earthquakes and their collections have been stored since then. The new building is nearing completion and plans are underway for design and exhibition fit out. Methven have used a Helping Hands Grant to assist in employing a designer to work with them on concept development.
After extensive building strengthening following the Canterbury earthquakes, Akaroa Museum’s new exhibition Ngā Taenga Mai – Arrivals has opened. The exhibition covers the early inhabitants of Horomaka Banks Peninsula; Ngāi Tahu, the French Navy, Pākehā whalers and French, German and English settlers.
Ngā Taenga Mai – Arrivals at Akaroa Museum. Image by Dan Smith.
In late September I was lucky to be part of a team assisting with placing Suter Art Gallery’s art collection into their brand new storeroom.
Lee Woodward and Nick Haig (right) hanging artworks at The Suter.
Also in September, a Care of Archival Materials workshop was held in Ashburton, led by conservator Lynn Campbell. Lynn was contracted by NSTP to share her knowledge about handling and caring for collections. The workshop was attended by representatives from museums throughout the District: Ashburton Museum, Ashburton Art Gallery, Mt Somers Museum, Methven Museum, Methven Heritage Centre and Temuka Museum.
If you would like to request a workshop for your region or museum cluster group, contact NSTP.
In October I worked with museums in Dunedin and Central Otago. Several museum teams are in the early planning stages of museum development, and were keen to have some guidance on their plans, collections, funding and training opportunities.
Congratulations to David Luoni
Finally, congratulations to David Luoni (Heritage Projects Manager, Gore District Council). David was invited to present on behalf of the team at Mataura Museum at the Best in Heritage: Projects of Influence conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia in September 2016, supported by the Creative Europe programme and the Endowment Fund of ICOM.
The Mataura Museum project won the Museums Aotearoa award for Best Museum Project in 2015. Described in the conference booklet as a redemptive project, you can read about it (see number 24) and all the other projects here.
NSTP is available to help and advise you before and during your museum project. Our advisory services are free and we offer a range of programmes including grants for small museums, training workshops, professional development grants and travel subsidies, and programmes for museums of all sizes, whare taonga and public collections. We look forward to seeing you at your museum.