by Judith Taylor, Museum Development Adviser | Kaiwhanake Whare Taonga
Collection rationalisation workshops held across Aotearoa this year by National Services Te Paerangi (NSTP) have encouraged museums to seriously consider their collections against current collection policies.
Decisions about acquisition and disposal should be based on a collection policy. The first step is to update your policy before any decisions to deaccession are made. Main takeaways from the workshops are to be careful what you collect in the first place, always research into provenance, use significance criteria to measure items against, but don’t be afraid to reconsider items in the collection and deaccession following the correct procedures. Museums are not funded to receive the left overs from garage and house clean outs!
If your museum doesn’t have a deaccession policy the following He Rauemi Resource Guide will help you to formulate one.
Deaccessioning and disposal without following due process is a red flag to your community who can develop a distrust of your museum’s ability to care for their treasures. In the first instance donors should be contacted and asked if they would like their item or items returned to them.
The Museums and Galleries of New South Wales (MGNSW) have developed a deaccessioning and disposal procedure which we recommend.
Collection rationalisation is easier in a tidy storeroom. On a visit to Founders Heritage Park in Nelson, I suggested support through an Expert Knowledge Exchange could start the process of planning to reorganise their overcrowded storage areas.
Expertise was provided by Terri Elder of the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, University of Canterbury. Terri used the Re-org methodology and wrote a comprehensive report for Founders Heritage Park with suggestions about working through the collection.
Follow up work to carry out the recommendations is planned at the Park. NSTP offers further support and practical assistance to follow up on workshop learning and other areas where you need extra expertise, through the Expert Knowledge Exchange programme and on-site visits with our Museum and Iwi Development Advisers.
(l) Looking into the storeroom at Founders Heritage Park. Photo courtesy of Founders Heritage Park; (r) Mahina Marshall, Heritage and Collections Officer | Āpiha Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho me ngā Kohinga, Broadgreen House, Isel House and Founders Heritage Park. Photo Judith Taylor, Te Papa
Condition reporting resources
The following comprehensive visual condition glossary from Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) is very useful when working through your collection.
You can use this Condition Glossary alongside the NSTP condition report template.
Arms Act Amendment Bill
There has been publicity about changes in the Arms Act and regulations recently that relate to fire arms held in museums: Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, 2019.
More information about applying for an endorsement to possess prohibited firearms, including labelling requirements can be found on the Police website, as well as detailed information about recommended safe storage of firearms and ammunition.
You can also contact your local police or Firearms Officer and request an on-site inspection and discussion.
At Hokitika Museum, work has begun on emptying the Carnegie Building in preparation for the seismic strengthening project. This involves some heavy lifting, dismantling of large partitions, storage of collection and other display items, and a lot of documentation. A comprehensive health and safety team briefing starts each day.
The team from Project Ark in Southland continue to be very generous sharing the knowledge developing from their practical, regional collection cataloguing project. Laurence Le Ber from Project Ark visited Hokitika Museum and ran a two day workshop with staff to share work flow ideas, packaging and storage techniques. Cocky the Amazonian parrot (a character with a lovely local history) received some special attention.
Canterbury Museum have also offered to assist Hokitika Museum through an Expert Knowledge Exchange. They will help with moving some especially large and heavy furniture items that haven’t been moved for as long as anyone at the museum can remember.
An exhibition area has been cleared and prepared to store collection items during the project and general improvements to storage are continuing while the museum is closed.
Owaka Museum Wahi Kahuika Manager Mike McPhee reports that they have all the funding for their new storage project and will be starting to build next year. Mike McPhee and many other ServiceIQ New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice trainees across the motu have been on the case over spring completing papers for assessment. NSTP offers assessment and mentoring for the qualification.
Kura Pounamu at Nelson Provincial Museum, Pupuri Taonga o Te Tai Ao
Along with Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Tai Ihu iwi and Nelson Provincial Museum staff, I attended the moving August dawn opening of the Kura Pounamu: Our Treasured Stone exhibition, which was developed by Te Papa and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
The exhibition includes over 200 examples of traditional toki, hei tiki and mere, and many of them are very rare. If you are in the area this is a great opportunity to see this very impressive and beautiful display of pounamu artefacts. The exhibition is at the Nelson Provincial Museum until 24 November.