At the beginning of June, HBMAG Team Leader’s had a walkthrough of the museum site with the opportunity to look at the progress of the redevelopment. The last time we visited was in December 2012 when the new wing was at basement level. This part of the building has progressed significantly – the basement, ground floor and first floors are now in place, with the first floor roof due to be completed shortly.
The HBMAG new wing and main entrance
It was a weird feeling wandering around the building, but one of much excitement. Some spaces the Bestall Gallery and Century Foyer were familiar, although lacking their usual life. I remembered back to when we were open, abuzz with visitors and the galleries full of the collections we know so well. Planning is already well under way for the collection and visitors to return, but for the first time I got a real sense of what the spaces were going to be like.
The Bestall Gallery undergoing earthquake strengthening
In the new wing’s main foyer and entrance on the ground floor I could now imagine staff standing at the reception desk, facing toward Tennyson Street welcoming visitors to the building. As I stood where the desk would be, I thought to myself that it may be challenge to remain focused with this fabulous new vista looking out towards the Soundshell, the Dome, and glimpses of Hawke Bay’s iridescent blue water beyond.
Views from the first floor balcony gallery
We visited the new education suite, located just off the foyer. I tried hard to imagine the walls that would contain the two teaching spaces. Students visiting the Museum will have some of the best spaces in the new building with full height windows framing beautiful views on to Marine Parade. I could hear the chatter of children’s voices as they excitedly sat waiting for their teachers and for lessons to begin.
I couldn’t wait to see the first floor galleries. We had to go outside the building footprint and ascend on steps as the internal stairwells were not yet competed. I carefully held the hand rail and make my way up to the floor above. What occurred to me when I stood on the Balcony Gallery was what a fabulous space this was going to be for our visitors. I walked into the two large galleries on this floor imagining the fine art collection surrounding me; visitors wandering around the space delighting in the paintings displayed on the walls.
As I walked out of the main galleries I headed towards the stairwell on the Marine Parade side of the building. The stairwells will be one of the most striking features of the new building – large cases, nine by three metres will span the height of the three floors and will be dedicated to displaying the HBMT’s collection. For some reason I imagined a large, glorious kimono being hung in front of me in the top section of the case. As I approached the balcony overlooking the case, the lighting drew my eyes to the treasures below, enticing me to go down the stairwells and explore further.
We made our way downstairs to where the new 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake exhibition will be located – it was very dark with only a string of light bulbs draped across the space. We asked the builders to turn the lights on; once they did the gallery felt bigger than it did on the plans. Some of the team got out their measuring tapes to check dimensions now we could get a feel for this space. It felt contained and the ceilings are quite low. This was going to be a challenging space to work with – not unlike the subject matter destined for this gallery, however I know we would persevere and that visitors that see this exhibition will take away their own understanding of the significance of this event to Hawke’s Bay.
The earthquake exhibition space
We continued our tour behind the scenes, past ceilings interlaced with large aluminium air conditioning vents, electrical and data wires trailing from place to place looking for their end outlet, offices walls in varying stages of completion. I imagine what it will be like as staff populate these spaces once again, busily getting on with their tasks – tables with collection objects being readied for display; then onto the Collection store with rows of treasures in neatly allocated shelving patiently waiting for their turn; other staff work at desks, papers piled high, coloured folders and to-do lists on whiteboards. It’s easy to imagine that when I follow this route to my new office on the Century Theatre mezzanine floor the enticing smell of coffee and fresh baking in our new café will be hard to resist.
The Design Team studio and office space
There is so much to do before I will make it up to that new office, many more months of planning but, it is exciting dreaming about the day the museum will be open again. I can’t wait to see all the galleries come to life and the collection once again taking centre stage. I am looking forward to welcoming back our visitors and being extremely proud of our fabulous new building and all the new stories we will have to share.
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