EAST exhibition extends into MTG for first time

Open today is Hastings City Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘EAST’, showing a vibrant array of creative works by 23 artists and designers who each have a connection to Hawke’s Bay. EAST recurs every two years yet is always unique, with this year’s show extending beyond the Hastings gallery walls and – for the first time – into MTG. We are pleased to host the work of three participants and have enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with guest curator Bruce E. Phillips, staff at the gallery, and of course the artists.

A video playing near the sea-facing window upstairs features Jacob Scott (Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) giving insight into his landscape design aspects of the Marine Parade Redevelopment: how the new space incorporates stories of mana whenua while encouraging positive interaction between people and the land.

Meanwhile, Auckland-based artist Natalie Robertson (Ngāti Porou) has hung an expansive black and white work on the wall in the main foyer, capturing the attention of all those who enter the museum. It is a photograph of a spring, taken at sunrise, with ferns dipping below the perfectly still surface of the water. Drawn by family connections, Natalie went searching for this particular spring at Te Rimu, near the Waiapu River on the East Cape. Her great-great-great-grandparents lived nearby, and Tikapa Marae, Natalie’s ancestral meeting house, can be seen from the spring.

A partner photograph titled ‘Puketapu’ hangs at Hastings City Art Gallery, tracing the subsequent migration of Natalie’s forebears south to Heretaunga. Her great-great grandfather, George Gillespie Boyd, bought the nearby Silverford mansion from the proceeds of his extensive real estate portfolio. Natalie describes how he made his retirement money in 1913 by purchasing 30 acres at Poraiti, then selling the land in sections two years later. In this way, he and his family profited from the system of Crown-imposed land laws, yet descendants such as Natalie also experience the dispossession caused by those same laws – and for which the Crown has since apologised. In the Heretaunga Tamatea Claims Settlement Bill, the Crown “offers its profound apologies for its actions that alienated you from the whenua that had sustained your ancestors for generations, and deprived you of access to your lakes, rivers, wetlands, and springs.” Which leads back to why Natalie was searching for the spring at Te Rimu.

The third EAST artist at MTG, George Tamihana Nuku (Ngāti Hinemanu, Ngāi Te Upokoiri), is also displaying art at both sites. His ‘Bottled River’ installation is now on show at Hastings, while the related full exhibition at MTG ‘George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118’ will open to the public on Friday 24 this month. This week George has been busy creating artworks out of plastic with the help of school groups, and with thanks to all those who have brought in their used bottles. He often shares some pieces of advice with the kids – one of which seems to particularly resonate with them. “You need three things to be a great artist: a pencil, a pencil sharpener, and a rubber. Always keep your pencil sharp, and likewise your thoughts. Sharpen your thoughts as you sharpen your pencil, every day.”

  • Chamber Music NZ presents Italy’s Ensemble Zefiro, playing 17th and 18th century woodwind instruments. MTG Century Theatre, Thursday 16 August 7:30pm, tickets $5.50.
  • Artist talk with George Nuku through his exhibition ‘Bottled Ocean 2118.’ MTG Hawke’s Bay, Saturday 25 August 11am, all welcome, free entry.
  • Talk, walk and beach clean with curator Jess Mio, starting in the ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ exhibition. Gloves and bags supplied. MTG Hawke’s Bay, Saturday 1 September 10am, all welcome, free entry.


Image caption: SPRING FOUND: ‘Te Rimu’ by Natalie Robertson, digital photographic print, 2018

Jess Mio, Curator – Art, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 11th August 2018


Historic moments through the eyes of the Webb family

It might puzzle visitors to stumble across a segment on the Mount Tarawera eruption in the museum’s newest exhibition, “The House of Webb: A Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville”. The viewer may wonder why this event is part of an exhibition that focuses on Southern Hawke’s Bay.

However, the connection between the eruption and the Webb family living in Ormondville, does make sense. Just after midnight on Thursday, 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera near Rotorua, erupted: the people of Te Wairoa, a village close to the mountain, were woken by a sequence of earthquakes and massive explosions. Fountains of molten rock and thick columns of smoke and ash rose over ten kilometres high. For more than four terrifying hours’ rocks, ash and mud bombarded the peaceful village. Mount Tarawera had split wide open.

Rocks, ash and mud did not besiege Ormondville, however the eruption still made its presence felt in the small township. Tom Webb, the nephew of Reverend Anthony Webb, wrote a letter to his brother Arthur, in England: “Early yesterday morning (10th) about 3.30 I was awakened by very heavy, loud and deep boomings, which sounded very much like heavy guns being fired at sea. The first one woke me up & was the loudest […] the boomings kept up at intervals of a few seconds.”

Other parts of Hawke’s Bay were similarly affected. “The Daily Telegraph” newspaper recorded that, in Woodville people were startled from sleep by “a series of loud explosions, accompanied by rumbling noises: at each discharge there was a violent shaking of the earth.” Meanwhile in Waipukurau, a dance held in the town hall was still in progress, when the gaiety was interrupted by a series of earthquakes, accompanied with “loud rumblings as of distant thunder” and “flames shooting up high into the air”. Terrified, the party broke up and the dancers quickly left for the safety of their homes. Along with earthquakes and explosions, “vibrant flashes of light in the northern sky” stunned the people of Napier.

Meanwhile, those living in Gisborne saw the magnificent sight of “volumes of fire shooting up in the air out of an umbrella-shaped cloud which spread over the whole sky”. By four in the morning, Gisborne was in utter darkness and there was a distinct smell of sulphur pervading the air. Breathing in the air “had a peculiar effect on many of the inhabitants” and by morning the “birds were seen flying about in a helpless fashion”.

That morning was a milestone in New Zealand’s geographical history: the Pink and White Terraces, colonial New Zealand’s premier tourist attraction and considered the eighth wonder of the world were destroyed along with Te Wairoa. On the 15 June, Tom Webb continued in his letter: “It is believed by people who have been within a mile of where the terraces are supposed to be that they have disappeared & a lake formed over them.”

Today all that remains are memories shared by those who experienced the devastation – accounts like those of Tom Webb, and paintings by eminent New Zealand artists, two of which are on show in this current exhibition.

Tarawera Eruption‘The White Terraces’ by Charles Blomfield

The White Terraces known as Te Tarata (the tattooed rock) originally fell 30 metres from a geyser that produced the white silica of the terraces. These terraces spread out and down for about 240 metres and the water spilling into pools was a crystal-clear blue.

Gail Pope – Curator Social History, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 4th August 2018




It’s time to reduce plastic in our lives

As we move into the end of July I’ve been looking at my efforts for Plastic Free July and, in reality beyond just plastic. With all the talk of supermarkets giving up plastic bags, and cafes and restaurants ditching the plastic straws, there is clearly more of a swing towards better environmental practice in at least some ways. It’s a real challenge to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in your day-to-day life, with so much of it pushed at you. From plastic bags to plastic wrap and over packaged product, it takes quite some determination to resist it all (and I certainly don’t manage it by a long shot). However I do try to minimise the amount I end up with and am determined year on year to reduce it further.

On a whole other level again there’s the zero waste movement – one which challenges us to consume less, to reject the giveaways (that so often end up in the trash) and to purchase less (how many shoes do I actually need) before you even reach the point of reuse and recycle. So I’m on a personal challenge to better manage my home environment, in particular to reduce the amount of stuff I bring in and to live a less cluttered life. I don’t for one second think I will become an environmental guru – far from it – but I can try and do a lot better than I do right now!

We try and do our bit at the museum as well, with recycling bins in public areas to sort waste and a composting bin in our staff room to manage food waste. In our shop any product we have created we will try and use non-plastic wrapping, such as on our stitchery kits. The glasses we use for theatre events are compostable and we’re always looking for other ways to reduce our waste. The big challenge I can’t seem to find an easy solution to, is the plastic bottled water we sell.

Currently right in the middle of our front foyer is a large crate (made from recycling pallets) for collecting people’s plastic bottles. These are being collected for George Nuku to convert into art for his upcoming exhibition George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118. This exhibition looks at our oceans 100 years into the future and imagines a different seascape from what we have today. Using plastic to create his work George also references the proliferation of plastic getting into the ocean – having a devastating effect on our sea creatures and bird life.

So, while we might not be able to personally ‘save the world’ we can certainly help by minimising our part of the problem. Saying no thank you to plastic bags in shops, supermarkets, etc and take your own reusable bags with you. And, if you really want to reduce your impact on the environment, look into the zero waste movement.

Plastic Free July

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 28th July 2018

Museum treasures about caring, sharing

We’ve a dedicated team of collection staff at MTG Hawke’s Bay who work diligently to ensure all the objects we hold are protected and preserved for future generations. Through packing collection items appropriately, monitoring for pests, as well as maintaining the right environmental conditions, our team provide excellent care for the region’s treasures. They also take care of arrangements when we lend items to other institutions such as packing for travel, arranging transport, and condition reporting.

We share the collection with the community in many ways – exhibitions, loans to other institutions, research visits to the collection store, collections on-line, etc and our collections team are a big part of making this possible. Yet another piece of work done by this team is the capture of images and information about objects – adding this to the database and online catalogue.

We’ve recently started sharing more of this information through weekly Facebook posts focusing on individual objects. On Wednesday’s we have A Curiosity from the Collection post featuring an unusual or interesting object and providing information about the item, it’s background or how it came into the collection. These can range from a squirrel cape stored and transported in a preserving jar, a beanie with UV reactive spikes, through to a crocodile handbag complete with dangling feet.

While our second weekly post is titled Friday: From Our Archives which has featured a range of items including a John Gully painting  of Lake Matheson, a Coptic textile from 700-900AD, an aerial photo showing the devastating effects of fire after the 1931 earthquake, and an early twentieth century Hawke’s Bay Kennel Club trophy. The Coptic textile was also the inspiration for two of the stitchery kit sets available at the MTG shop.

These posts provide another way and means for us to share the collection, not just with the region but with people everywhere. If you’d like to keep in touch with what’s happening at the museum and get glimpses of the collection treasures behind the scenes then follow us on Facebook (@mtghawkesbay) or just search for MTG.

And speaking of keeping up to date on what is happening, this weekend is your last chance to view the award winning He Manu Tīoriori exhibition, before it finishes tomorrow, Sunday 22 July at 5pm. Traversing 100 years of Ngāti Kahungunu’s love affair with music He Manu Tīoriori explores how Ngāti Kahungunu has been at the forefront of it all – from the Māori Jazz Orchestras of the 1920’s and 1930’s through to the emergence of the Māori Showband era of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

There are amazing items and stories we hold on behalf of the region and we love caring for these and sharing them with the community. We hope you love it too!

  • NZ Mountain Film Festival, amazing films celebrating Kiwis getting out there and doing it, Today, Saturday 21 July, starts 7:30pm. Tickets available from MTG.
  • NZIFF starts 30 August – more information available soon

Croc Bag

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 21st July 2018


Museum visitors treated to interactive thrills

It’s been great to see both the museum and library bustling with children and families this week. And we’ve been getting great feedback from parents about all the activities for the children in the museum and the interactive elements within our exhibitions – I’ve no doubt the library has been receiving the same. This week we were privileged to have a talk from Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre and we learnt about the range of programmes and work they do particularly with young people. That has certainly got my thinking cap on about possible future collaborations we might engage in, particularly around enriching our Matariki offering and activities for children.

Over the coming week the team will be installing a new display in the Octagon cases at the library end of the building. Put together by our Educators and library staff, this small display features both books and items borrowed from staff and friends. It’s also been a great opportunity for different staff to try their hand at curating. Only one of the collaboration projects we’re working on with the library team – others include upcoming public programmes, conferences and more.

The Octagon display is based on the theme of navigation and sailing, with each of the four cases having a slightly different focus: navigation, propulsion, Matariki and life at sea. Covering subjects such as navigation methods used to ensure you reached the right destination while traversing across vast oceans, and the means by which vessels are propelled through the water including wind, rowing and engines. The display touches on Matariki (also known as Pleiades), a cluster of stars, and the importance their reappearance in the sky plays in the Maori calendar. While another area explores how sailors kept themselves busy and entertained during long stretches at sea, such as making ships in bottles, tying elaborate nautical knots or creating scrimshaw.

Sitting alongside exhibitions Steadfast Steamers, Tenei Tonu, George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118 (opening 24 August) and our ongoing Napier Port education programme, the museum is well immersed in things nautical. We also touch on the beautiful Atea a Rangi Star Compass at Waitangi (near Clive). With a series of pou and a gateway this installation is based on a compass and references local stories and alignment with the stars. There’s information at the star compass on the amazing navigational skills of Maori who settled in New Zealand, as well as information about the historical and natural significance of the area. I can highly recommend Atea a Rangi as a place to visit.

Another thing we’re inviting people to do, is contribute to the George Nuku exhibition, set to open in late August. Utilising recycled see-through plastic bottles (such as water and fizzy drinks) George will work with school students to create new works of art. These will then join existing works George has made and come together to create the final exhibition George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118. Imaging a futuristic underwater world this exhibition will create a wonderful immersive experience.

We hope you’ll help by added to the materials required to make the new artwork (we have a large collecting crate in our front foyer) and then come back to see the finished product when the exhibition goes on display.

  • Marine Parade 1928 to 1938, local historian Michael Fowler, Today, Saturday 14 July, Century Theatre starts 3:30pm. Free entry
  • NZ Mountain Film Festival, amazing films celebrating Kiwis getting out there and doing it, Saturday 21 July, starts 7:30pm. Tickets available from MTG.

Star Compass_14 July 2018

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 14th July 2018

Winter happenings at MTG

As we move into the winter months, the team here are still busy working on the collections, preparing exhibitions, planning education programmes and so on. Our latest exhibition The House of Webb: a family’s journey to Ormondville has received great feedback. The design team tried some new elements in the exhibition to help bring the story to life and these have certainly make a difference to the vibrancy of the display.

Dinky Toys in the Octagon has just been dismantled and a new display focused on navigation is currently being installed. There isn’t much time left to view He Manu Tioriori: Songbirds, with this award winning exhibition coming to a close on 22 July. Looking at 100 years of Ngāti Kahungunu’s love affair with music, this popular exhibition has appealed to both young and old and I highly recommend taking this last opportunity to experience it for yourself.

Following He Manu Tioriori will be a new exhibition by local born artist George Nuku opening on 24 August. Of Omahu Marae, George is now based in France and has had many exhibitions around the globe. This installation titled George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118 looks at a futuristic underwater world. Working with recycled materials – in this case translucent plastics such as water and fizzy drink bottles – these will be transformed into artworks with the help of school groups. George is working with both MTG Hawke’s Bay and Hastings City Art Gallery where he will be showing a smaller installation Bottled River as part of their EAST exhibition. We’ll have a collecting station at MTG for any used (and cleaned) translucent bottles that the public would like to bring in for our exhibition.

We’re also on the build up to the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival – and will hopefully know the selection of films for Napier in the next week or two. Starting on 30 August this year and running through until 16 September I’m sure there will be something for everyone in the line-up.

And let’s not forget it’s school holidays. These holidays our programmes are Matariki themed, with kite designing, poi making, a Matariki colouring wall, the ever popular museum search, as well as the usual activities relating directly to exhibitions. Our drop-in-zone will be back for the holidays and we hope families will include the museum as one of their must-do activities for this school break.

At the same time we’re planning for our new digital education programme which starts in term three. This Digital Equity For All programme, delivered in partnership with Te Papa, aims at increasing access to digital technology among students in lower decile schools. We’re excited that it’s almost time to kick off the programme and hope it’ll make a real difference for students in the region.

So there’s more than enough to keep staff busy over the winter months and plenty for our visitors to come in and enjoy.

  • Marine Parade 1928 to 1938, local historian Michael Fowler, Saturday 14 July, Century Theatre starts 3:30pm. Free entry
  • NZ Mountain Film Festival, amazing films celebrating Kiwis getting out there and doing it, Saturday 21 July, starts 7:30pm. Tickets available from MTG.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 7th July 2018

Museum needs living treasures – volunteers

Volunteers at the museum come from all walks-of-life, a wide range of age groups and have different areas of interest, and support the museum in a variety of ways. Many are older, having both time and life experience they’re willing to share with us. For this group, a love of what museums do and the ethos of giving back to the community are usually the key drivers for them.

Others volunteers are keen to get experience that may help them on a career path. We’ve previously had Eastern Institute of Technology students who’ve helped alongside their studies and, often, directly related to them. For example students studying tourism may seek to get some experience at customer service, guiding tour groups, completing retail transactions and so on. Whereas design students work alongside our exhibitions team helping with tasks related to exhibition design and development. These interactions provide mutual benefits for both parties.

This week our Friends of the Museum and volunteers were invited to a private curated tour of our latest exhibition The House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville. During the subsequent afternoon tea, I found myself sitting between two current volunteers – one aged 15 and the other 83 (who started as a volunteer when she was 15).

Bridget Bewick, aged 15, from Napier Girls High School is our youngest volunteer. Bridget was seeking to add some value to the community, alongside completing an assignment towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award. Bridget has done jobs such as cleaning display cases (not exciting but it always needs to be done) and helping the exhibition team prepare base boards by covering them in fabric before objects are displayed on them. These have now been used in The House of Webb exhibition.

Sometimes a first interaction can lead to a lifelong passion and commitment – I wonder if a future Director will be talking to an 83 year old Bridget in years to come!

As with many not-for-profit organisations, volunteers are a crucial part of making the museum a success. Although the work can be hidden away at times, it makes a huge impact on what we’re able to deliver for the community. Some volunteers, such as Alva sit with our collection team scanning photographs and archives so they’re available digitally. While two volunteers, both named Carol, assist with mounting textiles for display (a meticulous and time-consuming job). Generally no museum has sufficient staff to keep on top of all the work that needs to be done and volunteers make a huge difference.

We thank and celebrate our volunteers in a number of small ways. Last week was National Volunteers Week so a special tour through our offsite collection store was organised. Not an area most of our visitor hosting volunteers get to see. What was really nice was that part of that tour was led by our collection volunteers who got to host and share with our front-of-house volunteers.

We’re lucky to have such a wonderful and dedicated group of people who help and support us in the work we do and they’re a very special and important part of our museum family.

30 June 2018

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 30th June 2018