With the start of 2016 I, like many, am pausing to think about what I want to achieve in the coming year. Consequently I am thinking about what MTG Hawke’s Bay is doing and where we are going. At the core of this is thinking about who we are doing this for. One of the dangers that can happen in the museum industry is we end up catering for museum colleagues and critics instead of for our visitors and communities.
As a regional museum in the North Island of New Zealand we need to ask ourselves: who are our visitors and what do they want to see? Who are our communities and what is the legacy they want to leave? What are all the things that people want us to focus on – design, history, art, taonga Māori, objects, interpretation, aesthetics? We need to cater for disabled people, children, elderly, tourists, locals and so on. One of the challenges is that, to a certain extent, we have to try to be all things to all people which is of course impossible and can leave everyone somewhat dissatisfied. And we need to be aware of the ever-present danger that in trying to be all things to all people we can become very bland.
Like museums all over the country and around the world we need to try to generate revenue but be above commercialism, explore sensitive issues but not be politically influenced, be new and challenging but avoid stepping too far away from our roots. Confident and bold visions can disengage some visitors in the present but leave a lasting legacy for the future.
The strengths of collections can, and to a certain extent should, influence the direction of museums. However strengths of the collection are often influenced by the personal interests of Directors and Curators over the years. This can lead to gaps in collections and/or collection strengths that are out of step with community interests. Fashions and trends change over time, with many museums having large philatelic (stamp), horology (clock) and flat iron collections. More recent museum practice is to look at and consider the entire museum collection, purpose and community before developing collection policies that ensure collecting is focused on the best areas for the community and institution, rather than overly influenced by any personal leanings. Trying to get the balance right can be like walking a tightrope, however as I and Jessica, our new Art Curator, get to know the collection better and meet more of the community I am certain that we and the team here can develop the right way forward.
We have been receiving great feedback about the earthquake film ‘Survivors’ Stories’) showing downstairs next to the gallery and are excited that our Lalique exhibition is now less than a month away. As always I welcome the community’s opinions and thoughts on how we are doing so please continue to share those with me.
Laura Vodanovich Director of the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke’s Bay.
Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 9 January 2016.