Poems and albumen photos portray colonial life

This week’s been action packed with lots going on, starting with our free day on ANZAC with almost 2,000 people coming to visit the museum and take the opportunity to see what we’ve been doing. We received lots of complimentary feedback from those who came and I certainly know that many took the opportunity to enjoy a barista coffee on the day. We hope those of you who came found the experience enjoyable and to see you back again soon.

Also this week we were named as finalists in three categories for the Museums Aotearoa awards. Two of our exhibitions are up for awards, ‘Tēnei Tonu’ (our tāonga Māori gallery) for Regional Taonga Māori and ‘Talanoa’ (recent contemporary installation art project by John Vea) for Regional Art. We’re also a finalist for the Best Museum Project with ‘Pin Wall’, the large and beautiful porcelain artwork installed on the marine parade side of the building. Particularly pleasing is the fact that we’re the only museum to make it into three final categories and I’m exceptionally proud of the team for the work they have put in. We are all holding our breaths to hear the final results in May.

Last night we opened our newest exhibition ‘Young Country’ which combines historic photographs, reproduced using original techniques, and new poetry. The photographs feature people and scenes from all over New Zealand taken by Railway employee William Williams. These are placed together with poems written in response to the images by contemporary poet Kerry Hines. The project was developed by Kerry, underpinned by her doctoral research into Williams’ photography. She uses the photographs as a starting point for her poems, which were further inspired by a whole range of 19th century sources; from etiquette manuals to records of murder trials. The result is an imaginative glimpse into colonial life that is sometimes light and humorous and at other times evocatively dark.

The exhibition also offers a rare opportunity to view albumen prints. The process is time-consuming and complex, involving the use of albumen found in egg whites (hence the name) and results in rich prints. The photographs were painstakingly reproduced using the original techniques by photographer Wayne Barrar, resulting in images that are visually appropriate to the time period in which the photographs were taken. Wayne will explain this process during the floor talk on Saturday, along with Kerry talking about Williams’ photography and her own poems. It’s a beautiful exhibition with images and poetry to touch the creativity in us all. There’s also a magnetic poetry wall where you can try your hand at creating your own poem to leave for other visitors to read.

All in all quite a lot for a single week and one which reflects some of the varied nature of our work. We have lots more planned for the year and will continue to work on making you proud of your museum.

Tēnei Tonu exhibition. Photorapher David Frost.

Tēnei Tonu exhibition. Photorapher David Frost.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 30 April 2016

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