Band of Volunteers Keeps Our Museum Buzzing

Being volunteer week, it’s a great time to celebrate the many ways people contribute to society through unpaid work: from helping out at public institutions like ours, to assisting with sports, education, animal rescue, social services, environmental conservation, and so much more. Volunteering can be some of the most fulfilling work people do, as each person is contributing according to their own interests and talents. Their involvement is integral to building strong communities and it’s fantastic to see them recognised this week.

Here at the museum, we’re grateful for the support of our many dedicated and loyal volunteers, who help in a variety of ways both behind the scenes and in the public spaces. One of our longest-serving volunteers, Carol Delacy, works with the collection team whenever we’re putting textiles on display. Being one of the more complex items to display due to their fragility, we’re always appreciative of Carol’s skilled assistance.

Carol is also one of our volunteer hosts working in the galleries: enriching visitors’ interaction with exhibitions on display, answering any questions and assisting people during their visit. They will be out in force tomorrow during our Open Day, when entry to the museum will be free to all from 10am. We’re offering a series of floor talks, activities, and will be live-streaming the Kaumatua Kapa Haka event taking place in Wellington. There’s always a wonderful atmosphere when the museum is full of people, which makes being here especially enjoyable for our volunteers, as well as the staff members who come along. Tomorrow we’ll have several team leaders and a curator present, so if you’d like to speak to any of us about what you want to see at the museum, do come along and find us – or speak with our ever-friendly volunteer hosts and Customer Service team.

A major drawcard this Open Day is our latest exhibition, ‘Freedom & Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960.’ This exhibition is on tour from Auckland Art Gallery, and features an array of stunning paintings by some of the most pre-eminent artists in our nation’s European art history. The story begins with John Weeks, who studied painting in France and brought back radical ideas that were developing there to New Zealand. He shared them with Louise Henderson, among others, who took the baton and developed her own cubist style that was by turns bold and refined.

Henderson in turn influenced New Zealand’s most famous artist, Colin McCahon, and the work of these two artists forms the main focus of the exhibition. There’s a generous number of their exemplary cubist works, and taken as whole, the exhibition presents the surprising range that this style had within New Zealand. There are scenes of Titirangi kauri bush, nude figures bathing, still-life compositions, a foundry with a pot of luminous molten metal, and more: all painted in the distinctive geometric style of cubism. I hope you can come and enjoy the show this weekend, or at some point before its closing date of 12th November.

Louise Henderson artwork titled Dieppe, 1959.

Louise Henderson artwork titled Dieppe, 1959.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 24 June 2017

MTG Says Sad Farewell to Museum Supporter

Yesterday was a very sad day as I, along with other MTG Hawke’s Bay staff, attended the funeral for Don Millar. Don had an ongoing association with the museum, starting from his time as the Honorary Curator of Taonga Maori between 1990 – 2011. For almost 20 years he committed several days a week coming to the museum to research and catalogue the taonga collection, sharing with visitors and school groups his in-depth knowledge. Through his role at the museum, Don also built strong relationships with local iwi. An active archaeologist, he was awarded in 2011 the New Zealand Archaeological Association Inc public archaeology award in recognition of the outstanding work and dedication he showed to public archaeology. Don worked closely with Maori and had a great love and respect for Maori culture. A karakia was held for Don at a local Maori archaeological site today for people who could not attend the service.

While I only knew Don for a short period he had a great impact on me. I first met him in 2015 when I was giving a public presentation about the museum and where we are heading. Don was a stalwart supporter of what the museum was doing and of me personally – often turning up to many of my talks and reminding me if I’d forgotten anything. In his last few weeks Don was still ensuring he did things to support the museum, Maori and the wider community – bringing in the last of his toki collection from Tukituki Valley, Pakarae River and elsewhere, to ensure these are kept safe for future generations. I’m incredibly grateful for the short time I had with Don and along with museum staff truly treasure the memories we have of him.

On Thursday night this week the Foundation, also huge supporters of the museum, came together for a function and a more in-depth look at the ‘Out of the Box’ exhibition before it closes on Monday. We were delighted and very lucky to have Peter Shaw, Curator of the Fletcher Trust collection, walk us through the gallery and talk to specific artworks. Peter has a depth and breadth of knowledge about New Zealand art and the personal stories and anecdotes he was able to share really brought the artists and their work to life.

At the same event the Chairs of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Foundation and the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, acknowledged another example of support for the museum. This was the very tangible, regional and joint support of five different entities coming together to purchase a significant body of work for the collection. Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Napier Port, the Foundation and the Trust all jointly purchased four Jono Rotman works from a series titled Omaranui. The artist, Jono Rotman, together with his dealer gallery, Gow Langsford, contributed the final two works in the series so that we have a complete set in the collection. These works will go on display in early September.

It takes many hands, and lots of different kinds of support, to make institutions such as ours work and we’re grateful to those who give so generously – of time, funds, knowledge and active support – we couldn’t do it without you.

Don Millar (second from left) participating in karakia at the museum

Don Millar (second from left) participating in karakia at the museum

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 3 June 2017

A TIME FOR LEARNING ABOUT ENCOMPASSING INCLUSION

Early Monday morning, two other museum staff and I travelled to Palmerston North for a conference on Museums of Inclusion: He Waka Eke Noa, looking at ways to make our institutions not only accessible to all, but also welcoming and relevant.

Warmly received by the local hapu of Rangitane, we heard from a range of speakers about the many different types of barriers that continue to exclude people from museums: from barriers to even entering the museum building, such as entry fees, to barriers that can make it physically difficult to navigate the museum, such as steps. There was rich discussion about cultural inclusion (and exclusion), looking at which stories are told, from whose perspective, and to which audiences. Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku referred back to the title of the conference, asking ‘whose waka is it? Who steers the waka, and who decides if full inclusion has been reached?”

We looked at how museums could make our content much more accessible, such as giving tours in sign language and accompanying written labels with audio versions. Practical sessions included tips on how to make exhibition spaces easy to navigate – and experience in full – while using a wheelchair.

It was immensely valuable to learn ways to break down barriers, and then to be inspired to go further. Physical and cultural access for all is just the minimum expected of museums, but what we really need to strive for is active and meaningful participation from a broad range of people within our community. That requires building relationships with a number of groups, especially those that have been marginalised, and over time increasing the diversity within museum staff.

I learned that 24% of the population lives with a disability, and that there are over 20,000 native speakers of New Zealand Sign Language. It’s exciting to think of the potential to work collaboratively to share stories from these communities and more that are not often heard.

I gave a short presentation on gender diversity, introducing those who weren’t familiar with the topic to the many ways that neither bodies nor personalities are limited to the binary model of female and male. With reference to the medically unnecessary surgeries still routinely performed on intersex babies and young people (and which the UN classes as torture), I encouraged museums to be leaders in acknowledging and welcoming all those whose realities aren’t reflected in the gender binary.

It was interesting to hear about what can make visiting the museum much more enjoyable for people with autism, such as having quiet areas to sit, away from lots of sensory stimulation. Another thought-provoking session looked at young people’s access to arts, culture and heritage while held in youth justice residences, and for incarcerated adults.

We were proud to receive a certificate as a finalist for a Museums Aotearoa Award on behalf of our Curator of Social History, Gail Pope, and to hear her congratulated for her wonderful work on the Napier Cemetery tours. All in all, it was a very valuable few days in Palmerston North and we’re looking forward to putting our new insights and perspectives into practice. Please do get in touch if you would like to give us some input on ways we can be more accessible, inclusive and welcoming.

Jess Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 27 May 2017