Art Deco

As we head into February, things are coming together nicely for the opening of the Napier Library at MTG on 7 February. Just this week the concrete was poured and the handrails installed for our new ramp leading into the Theatre Foyer: the connecting hub between the library area and the rest of the museum. This entrance point into the building, off Herschell Street, will provide the most direct access to the library.

The team of workers have done a great job on this within a very short timeframe and the ramp looks as if it has always been there, blending in beautifully with the building architecture. The reason I’m so excited about a ramp is not because of the look or efficiency with which it has been built (both of which have been great) but because of what it represents – genuine accessibility. Especially for library users during the day and theatre patrons in the evenings.

I’ve had the privilege of a sneak peek through the new library space and I think it looks stunning. Darran Gillies, Library Manager, and his team have done a fabulous job working within a smaller space to ensure they still offer a great range of books and services for their customers. Once the library is open, we hope visitors will enjoy being able to experience both facilities within one building, along with our new opening hours of 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Sunday.

But there’s not just preparations for the library opening happening. Our team have worked hard to ensure we’re ready for the Art Deco Festival as well. A small selection of beautiful kimono from the Art Deco period is on display in the Linkway Corridor (by the Century Foyer) and a number of gorgeous tea sets are on display in our Time for Tea exhibition, with an extra case of tea sets in the front foyer. At night some detailed shots of the chinaware from this exhibition are projected onto a wall by the mezzanine, so at night you can still get access to a taste of what is inside. Downstairs by the earthquake gallery there’s a small selection of Art Deco objects on display and Hei Manu Tioriori showcases bands from the jazz age.

We’ll have lots of musical events happening in the theatre and elsewhere over the festival period, including cabaret, jazz bands, pianists and solo singers. In the theatre you can be inspired by the beautiful songs of Marlene Dietrich and Cole Porter, experience a German cabaret or tap your toes to a jazz band. Out in the theatre foyer you can enjoy the creative genius of Gershwin with live piano performances or experience the beautiful voice of Charles Ropitini (formerly in charge of Maori Engagement at MTG) as he takes you on a singing tour of our Hei Manu Tioriori exhibition.

Whatever you choose to do over the Art Deco weekend we hope you’ll come in and enjoy some of what we have on offer. While you’re here you can also peruse the great range of books on Art Deco at the library.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 27th January 2018



With the news that our Minister of Arts and Culture, Jacinda Ardern, is expecting a child I thought I would explore the place of museums with mothers and children in mind.

Museums can play an important role in the development of young minds. Not just engaging with what’s on display but also providing early exposure to arts and culture and a positive experience reinforcing family bonds. The critical role of parents in the cognitive development of their children is becoming increasing acknowledged by educators. Rather than just an activity to do on a rainy day, museums are an important resource that supports parents in their role as first teachers.

Formal school trips to the museum has long been a part of New Zealand childhood culture, alongside school camps and trips to the local swimming pool. Education in museums is very different from my childhood, with children now playing a lead in the experience they have – encouraged to explore and enquire. Gone are the days of sitting still with arms and legs folded, listening to a teacher at the front of the classroom. These days students try on costume, make videos, play educational games (e.g. surviving WWI) and more. Education programmes provide students with a strong sense of place – learning their culture and exploring their roots. These interactions with children can be the start of forming a deep and lasting bond with museums and their local cultural heritage.

Museums worldwide are trending towards exhibitions that encourage interaction and engagement. We’re well aware of the mixed messages museums send, with some displays encouraging touch and others not. Today’s digital age children seem to be able to read the visual clues and signs around this better than someone of my age. There’s no denying that the Victorian era played a huge part in the development of museum culture and etiquette. I would hope Queen Victoria, as a working mother, would find museums today far more focused on the needs of children than in her time.

At MTG we aim to provide education, entertainment and inspiration for children and their caregivers. Over these school holidays we’ve noticed lots of families in the museum enjoying the activities, exploring galleries and leaving their artwork on the large display wall in the front foyer. While there are lots of different whanau looking after the young ones many of these are mothers.

Being a working mother I know spaces like ours can provide a welcome place to visit, somewhere inexpensive, where children are welcome, with arts and culture to absorb and even a space specifically for children with our drop-in-zone. Somewhere where not only could I help my children explore and discover but where I could also learn and be inspired.

Both museums and libraries offer multi-levelled experiences – not just enriching for children but also for adults. With the library opening at MTG on 7 February, this provides another layer of engagement for both children and parents. Our hope is that those who come to MTG can step through the doors and see the wide variety of experiences and interactions that libraries and museums can offer.

We’re currently discussing ways in which, this year, we will celebrate the 125th anniversary of women in New Zealand exercising their right to vote. New Zealand has often been on the leading edge around women’s issues – from examples of great leadership among Maori women, through women’s Suffrage, to now having a Prime Minister about to become a mother whilst in office. We hope to welcome Jacinda and her family at MTG one day, in her role as Minister of Culture and Heritage.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 20th January 2018

Survivor Film Thrills Visitors

Returning to work after a break over the Christmas holidays I can certainly say I’ve had to hit the ground running. Our fabulous Customer Service Team has been exceptionally busy over the holiday period, with the number of visitors in the first week of January higher than the entire month of January last year.

Our team continue to do a great job providing the best possible customer service. Feedback from our visitors tells us that they appreciate the great service our team provides and that the museum is highly valued, with 93% of visitors in December rating the museum experience as positive or very positive. While the Survivor Stories film continues to be one of the highlights for visitors, all the galleries and programmes are well appreciated. Some specific comments include – “Great earthquake exhibit, especially Survivors Stories, quite moving”, “I was impressed with the depth of information on the Two Sisters”, “Tea exhibition – excellent”, and “Good activities for kids”. Free entry is a regular feature in feedback and continues to positively influence the number of visitors to the museum. As always we gather and review suggestions on what we can do better, monitoring these for patterns and ideas to provide a service and experience that is always evolving and improving.

Things have also be very busy behind the scenes with items arriving to set up the new library space. Both teams, MTG and the library, continue to work hard to ensure everything is ready to run as smoothly as possible on 7 February – the library’s opening day. It’s been great over these last few months getting to know the library team better and we’re looking forward to working together.

In the meantime the library summer reading programme is already up and running at MTG. If you’ve been looking for the reading programme it’s in the Education room – just off the front foyer of the museum. And there are plenty of other things for families and children in this space as well with lots of fun craft activities to complete. While our ever popular activity trail continues to keep children engaged and entertained as they go through the galleries.

And more is happening – with a ramp under construction on the Herschell Street side of the building. We’re thrilled to see this work underway, as a ramp leading to the Century Theatre Foyer has been on my ‘wish list’ for a long time. This will make the library and Century Theatre more accessible for everyone which is just as it should be.

We’re also working on developing a Strategic Plan for MTG, so we can look ahead and determine where we want to go next. You can be sure that visitor engagement and community satisfaction will remain top priorities and we’ll be asking stakeholders and community groups what they’d like to see the museum achieve next. The fantastic team here will continue to work hard and provide the best possible customer service and museum facility for the region. One, we sincerely hope, you are proud of and happy to recommend to others.

2018 already looks like a full and busy year and we’re excited about the opportunities and possibilities it holds.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 13th January 2018



Beginning four months ago at MTG as Curator Taonga Maori, I’m particularly focused on Maori stories, both current and historical.  These narratives are centered around the notion of taonga and setting to work has meant defining what this is.  Simply put taonga translates as treasures, but what does taonga mean for us at MTG Hawke’s Bay, as a museum, theatre and gallery?

Our “ Taonga Maori” category, within the wider collection, is one of the most significant in the world and certainly one of the oldest and largest in the country. Numbering over six thousand individual pieces, with many hundreds of years old. Working with these taonga is thrilling, often emotional and endlessly educational. Every piece is a representation of, or directly associated with, a Maori ancestor and is considered of ancestral importance to the Maori iwi/tribal group from which it originated.

Many of our taonga belonged to politically significant rangatira, these chiefs from all across the country have played a role in key events that have informed our nation’s history. These riches and others in the collection are simply beautiful, many being famous works of art in their own right. That we have acquired so many, collected for over one hundred and fifty years, makes our collection a true regional, national and international treasure.

About sixty percent of our ‘taonga Maori’ are directly associated with Ngati Kahungunu. Treasures such as the Pai Marire flag, flown in the battle of Omaranui inspired me as a young artist, so now working with this taonga draws deep emotion.

So too does the taonga from other iwi such as the gold furnished hei tiki of Ngati Toa rangatira Te Rauparaha, composer of the haka “Ka Mate”, and the bible of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, of Rongowhakaata and founder of the Ringatu faith. The several Lindauer paintings, hundreds of mere pounamu, cravings, toki and cloaks, along with the personal adornments will take a long time to become knowledgeable about. Taonga belonging to rangatira such as Hongi Hika, Te Ruki Kawiti, Patuone, to Ta Apirana Ngata bring the past literally to hand.

But this is only one category of taonga. Precious items like the many huia feathers, and our moa and teeth of kuri (the Maori dog) are grouped as ‘natural history’. While taonga from a more current context are grouped under other categories such as contemporary Maori art, with digital artifacts, photographs and other items falling under the social history collection. Highlights of these for me are the Hon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan’s fashion collection and our beautiful Pania lamp.

However the definition of taonga goes beyond artifacts. Te Reo Maori and tikanga Maori are living taonga at MTG. Creating exhibitions and spaces that foster Te Reo and tikanga Maori are just as important as preserving an artifact from our past, as this also protects our future. How this is achieved requires a dynamic design approach that encourages engagement, creating what is to me our greatest taonga – visitor experiences.

Interactions of the huge range of visitors are to me taonga too. It’s a tremendous pleasure to watch visitors researching items such as kiwi feather cloaks, working out how each was engineered, in turn giving an insight into character of the maker. Satisfying too, is witnessing the sheer joy so many have when they connect to a taonga through a personal whanau history.

In celebration of our stories and taonga we have exhibitions currently in development. An exhibition on Pania is in the works and a special selection of our feather cloaks will be on display. ‘Rongonui’ will be an exhibition that showcases the depth of history and sheer importance of our taonga here at MTG Hawke’s Bay.  Now the hard part of the job will be choosing which taonga to showcase.

Waka Huia

Photo Credit:
Name/Title Waka Huia / Treasure Box
Acquisition Source and Donor The Estate of J.M. Wright (Napier)

Michelle Lee – Curator, Maori

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 6th January 2018