People are paramount

While it’s easy to think that museums are all about buildings and objects, the true core of what we are is people. Which is why the health, safety and wellbeing of employees and visitors is paramount in our work. This week we were delighted to have our new Facilities Officer, Matthew Tuapawa, join us. With recent legislation changes we, like many, have sharpened our focus on health and safety. This is something that’s always been taken very seriously and now has another layer of care.

One of Matthew’s many responsibilities is to lead our health and safety committee, addressing any new risks, such as the ballet barre in the Nyree Dawn Porter exhibition. The barre, along with a mirror and costumes, is there for our young (and young at heart) visitors to play at being a dancer like the star of the exhibition. While it was placed some metres away from the staircase, we erred on the side of caution and included a strategically placed seat in order to reduce any risk of falling down the stairs.

Museums can be surprisingly full of hazards and risks – with welding and high powered carpentry tools there are plenty of obvious hazards to be aware of and manage – and keeping our staff safe from harm is a really important priority. We also have people working at heights to adjust, install or change lights in the Century Theatre, hang artworks from the ceiling in the front foyer or between columns on the forecourt, or work on the roof. This is a specialised type of work and needs the correct equipment and training.

Hidden hazards may be found within the collection itself. Some historic items may have been made with toxic materials that were considered safe at the time, like asbestos, which was used in many common household items such as oven mitts, appliances and so on. Lead paint was used extensively on toys and cribs. We work closely with the health and safety team at Napier City Council on the appropriate care and management of such items to ensure staff working with the collections are safe and that any item put on display does not endanger visitors to the museum.

Given the historic nature of the collection and the significance of many of the objects, such as weapons that have been used in battle, religious material, sacred taonga, etc we always consider spiritual and cultural safety as well. Restricting food and drink within the galleries, along with karakia when taonga are entering and leaving the building are some of the things we do. While the museum has always prioritised and ensured physical wellbeing, we are continually building on this with other forms of safety so all staff and visitors are welcome, comfortable and secure. As always we welcome input and feedback from the community on ways we can improve.

  • Napier Performing Arts Competitions Aria Final, Dame Malvina Major Foundation Finals. Century Theatre, Sunday 1 April, 7:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 7-8 April, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. Suitable for beginners through to intermediate stitchers. Classes are filling up quickly – to book call MTG 835 7781 or email
  • The museum is open throughout Easter 9:30-5pm daily, free entry

31st March 2018

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 31st March 2018


Sail on into MTG for some shipping history

Next time you’re visiting MTG Hawke’s Bay, we warmly invite you to wander down to the Linkway Gallery on the ground floor and immerse yourself in a snippet of Ahuriri and Hawke’s Bay’s shipping history.

Taking pride of place in this new exhibition ‘Steadfast Steamers: Models of Hawke’s Bay Shipping are four beautiful scale models of Hawke’s Bay steamers. The ‘Hawke’s Bay’ and ‘Marere’ steamers were commissioned specifically for the frozen meat market; the ‘Nora Niven’ as a fishing trawler and the ‘Tuna’ as a coastal steamer.

Shipbuilders created scale models to show prospective buyers how the full-sized steamer would appear, illustrating advanced building techniques and innovative features. After the ship was launched and delivered, the model was displayed prominently in the company boardroom, to showcase their sleek lines and superior construction.

The small steamer ‘Tuna’, was built and launched in 1885 by shipbuilders in Newcastle, England. On its delivery passage to the firm of Richardsons and Company of Napier, it was wrecked in the Red Sea. After a great deal of litigation and ill feeling the Richardson Company’s insurer paid up, and an identical sister ship, the ‘Kahu’, was built and arrived in Napier at the end of 1886. Richardson and Company did not receive a model of the ‘Kahu’ so instead used the ‘Tuna’ model as a showpiece in their boardroom.

The ‘Hawke’s Bay’ and ‘Marere’, were both sleek and fast, with reputations for delivering cargoes of frozen meat in the best possible condition. Owned by the Tyser Line Company, an English company operating out of Napier, they each made two trips per year to London, New York, Australia and New Zealand carrying Hawke’s Bay sheep and lamb carcasses, as well as pelts, wool and tallow.

Described as a fine sturdy trawler, the ‘Nora Niven’ had on board an ice-making plant, used to keep the catch fresh while out at sea. A huge trawling net connected to a powerful winch was coiled up on the port-side. A gas-lighting plant ensured continual visibility in case a catch needed to be winched aboard throughout the night.

Sadly all that survives of the four original steamships are these models: despite dedicated service, history has not been kind, as they either floundered and sunk or were sold for scrap.

 You will notice that the largest steamer, Marere appears more pristine that the other three: this model required intensive conservation work before it could be displayed. Conservator Detlef Klein from Manuwatu was commissioned to carry out this intricate work. We hope over time, as funds and priorities allow, to have the same work carried out one other model and the lantern.

On the opposite side of the wall are a series of paintings by Charles Basil Norton depicting steamers owned by Richardson and Company Ltd, a coastal shipping line based on exporting wool and meat. These steamers provided a regular service to sheep stations from Cape Runaway to Cape Palliser: delivering supplies and returning with wool and live animals to the Port of Napier. Isolated by lack of roads and railways, farmers were wholly reliant upon this coastal service for their livelihoods. The company also ran a fleet of lighters that transported wool from Port Ahuriri to ships anchored in deeper water, and a passenger and cargo service that sailed daily between Napier and Wairoa. A series of photographs alongside illustrate the conveyance of wool bales out to a steamer at Akitio.

In the small alcove situated next to the models, there is a projection of Fishing Industry of New Zealand: Trawling in Napier, from 1913. This film provides a great insight into the daily life of a fishing trawler and Ahuriri as well as a sense of quirkiness.

  • The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, one of the most beloved operas of all time, presented by Wanderlust. Century Theatre, Wednesday 28 March, 7:30-9:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 7-8 April, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. Suitable for beginners through to intermediate stitchers. Classes are filling up quickly – to book call MTG 835 7781 or email
  • The museum is open throughout Easter 9:30-5pm daily, free entry

Tuna Image

Image of the model of the ‘Tuna’

Gail Pope – Curator Social History, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 24th March 2018

Spotlight falls again on Bay actress who took giant leap to stardom

Yesterday the team put the finishing touches on our newest exhibition “Nyree Dawn Porter: from local stage to global stardom”. This display explores Hawkes Bay local, Nyree Dawn Porter, looking at her first love and early roots – ballet. At the age of 18 Nyree passed the required qualifications to set up her own ballet studio, which she did in the front room of her mother’s house. There she drew portraits of ballerinas on the walls, purposely elongating elements of the figures to inspire grace and elegance in her students.

In between teaching Nyree pursued acting with the Napier Operatic Society and then “The New Zealand Players”, a travelling group founded by Richard and Edith Campion. Born Ngaire in 1936, she changed the spelling of her name to Nyree when she moved to England in the 1950s. There she shot to fame as Irene in the Forsyte Saga, television’s first soap opera, and Nyree quickly became a household name.

We put out a call to the community to help gather information and items about Nyree’s life and were overwhelmed with the support received. The collective knowledge of a community is a powerful tool – thank you for sharing your stories and treasures with us.

In the exhibition design for Nyree Dawn Porter we have endeavoured to create a sense of the theatre scene which Nyree so loved and also the time period in which she was, literally, the ‘star of the show’. With beautiful stage curtains setting the scene and ballet costumes, designed by Karina Blogg, to try on, along with a ballet barre and mirror, this small exhibition aims to be an immersive experience.

Nyree received a Bafta Award, an OBE, was portrayed on stamps, featured on ‘This is Your Life’ and had ships named after her, truly achieving global stardom.  If you’re a fan of Nyree, a ballet lover, a follower of the Forstye Saga, or interested in stage and film we hope you will enjoy this story.

We, as always, debate and discuss the best mix of exhibitions, stories and objects to showcase. Some exhibitions are important in terms of the current social issues they explore, others focus on sharing the collection, some on telling local histories, and yet more on celebrating different cultures and so on. Getting the mix of exhibitions right is complex, with our target audience the entire community of Hawke’s Bay plus visitors to the region. Everyone wants different things – some are only interested in art, others solely in history, some primarily in design and the list goes on.

We need to find a balance between providing a bit of something for everyone and at the same time playing one of the important roles that museums have within communities – to reflect and explore current social issues and to challenge and unpack current paradigms. When at our very best changing minds and opening hearts.

Nyree photos - Carine (4)


  • The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, one of the most beloved operas of all time, presented by Wanderlust. Century Theatre, Wednesday 28 March, 7:30-9:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 7-8 April, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. To book call MTG 835 7781 or email


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 17th March 2018

Focus on videos as Maori gallery’s evolution continues apace

The museum continues to be busy with visitors, theatre events and exhibition changes. Sometimes we develop new exhibitions and do a complete change-out of a gallery and other times things are more of a curated evolution. Such is the case with Tenei Tonu, our Maori gallery, with a series of new objects and content being added in.

We’re currently putting finishing touches on two videos that will be installed later this month. One is a video welcoming visitors into the gallery, with wero, karanga and waiata. This video provides both an experience and insight into these rituals of encounter. The second video features Rose Mohi, looking at her personal journey to research and relocate the pou of the wharenui ‘Heretaunga Tuatoru’. This wharenui was commissioned by Rose’s tupuna Karaitiana Takamoana, Member of House of Representatives, Eastern Maori. Takamoana employed Ngati Porou master carver Hoani Taahu of Ngati Uepohatu to work on carvings to adorn this wharenui at Pakowhai Pa in Hastings.

One of the sixty-four Heretaunga Tuatoru pou is on display in Tenei Tonu – the only one of these pou remaining on public display within Hawke’s Bay. Distinguished scholar Roger Neich described Heretaunga Tuatoru as “the most scattered meeting house in the world.” In this video Rose explains the history of the wharenui and her journey to reconnect these carvings, which has taken her around the world.

More film will be soon be shown at MTG with Screenies – an independently run children’s film festival run over a three-day period during the school holidays (19-21 April). The festival’s aim is “to enrich children’s experience of media by showing diverse stories from around the world and New Zealand”. As part of the festival Screenies will show a re-digitised “Hairy Maclary 10 Favourite Stories” for younger viewers, first shown in 1983. There will be a special Thunderbirds presentation, a feature film “Not Without Us”, and a selection of the best short films available internationally. More information about this will be available on our website next week.

Also in the Century Theatre we’re delighted to be hosting Mike King’s upcoming I Am Hope Tour. Mike is on a campaign to address and raise awareness about youth suicide, specifically wanting to help people who have suffered, or are suffering, from bullying, depression, low self-worth or anxiety. And further, to provide the knowledge and tools for their friends and family to know how best to support people going through this. There’s been such a huge response to this event that it’s already fully booked. It’s great to know there is interest and action around this subject and hopefully Mike might return so more people can participate in this discussion. Find out more about Mike’s story on

Rose_Sample of balck with insert carving Still002

Michelle Lee – Curator, Maori

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 10th March 2018

Death Mementos: Victorian hair jewellery touching souvenirs of dead

To me, Victorian mourning jewellery containing locks of human hair are some of the most endearing and emotive personal mementos found amongst the collection. This sentimental jewellery was associated directly with the Victoria era: named after Queen Victoria who ascended the English throne in 1837 and reigned for 64 years. In 1861 Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died from typhoid fever and so great was her grief that for the next forty years she lived a life of mourning. Her emotive state influenced a whole nation, which evolved a mourning fashion, particularly aimed at women, that included societal etiquette, clothing and jewellery.

From the 1850s onwards, Victorians were also influenced by archaeological discoveries of Etruscan, Greek and Egyptian artifacts: designers began making jewellery larger and bolder. Along with gutta-percha, pinchbeak and gold, the material most associated with mourning was jet, a type of fossilized coal. It could be easily carved, was highly polished and light to wear. With mourning, hair art became very popular: by cutting a lock of hair from a loved one after death and weaving it into designs for brooches, rings, watch fobs, bracelets and necklaces, the bereaved were able to keep that person close to their heart.

The archive holds one very moving example of hair that was never incorporated into mourning jewellery: a lock of yellowing white hair, dry and brittle to the touch, dulled with the passing of time and the removal of all natural oils. This lock belonged to William Colenso, tenderly removed after his death on 10 February 1899. Estranged from his wife Elizabeth and daughter Frances, there was no female relative to claim this very personal object and have it fashioned into jewellery to be worn close to the heart. Henry Hill, Inspector of Schools and close friend remarked on this fact when writing about William Colenso’s funeral: “The scene…was sad, and withal, beautiful.  An old man full of years and honours was borne to his last resting place. Yet no wife, no child, no relative was there to mourn his passing…”

Next time you visit the Museum, take a look in the Victorian stairwell case. Nestled amongst the many objects is a very fine example of mourning jewellery: a cameo set in a cord of plaited hair.

Not all hair was intended for mourning jewellery. While searching for items to use in a future exhibition about the Webb family from Ormondville, I came across three small packages of baby hair carefully enclosed in tissue paper. Unwrapping each is a very moving experience because I was aware that this hair, each lock different in colour, texture and curl, was once part of a vibrant human being. On the outside of each package is written the name of the child and age: Louisa, John and William Kerr, all direct descendants of the Webb family from England. So treasured were these children by the Webb family, that these small mementos were carried to the other side of the world in remembrance: poignantly this hair is the only physical thing that remains of their existence.

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, tastes and styles changed radically. The stages and periods of mourning became less defined and mourning jewellery incorporating hair was viewed with repugnance: this style of jewellery has never been revived.

  • Children’s Day at MTG. Drop in Zone featuring various craft activities, and the popular Museum Search. Sunday 4th March, 9:30am to 5:00pm. Free for all.
  • Anderson & Roe Piano Duo. Exploding genre boundaries, Anderson and Roe are as much at home with Mozart as they are with Daft Punk. Thursday 15 March, 7:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek

Mourning Jewellery_3rd March

Gail Pope – Curator Social History, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 3rd March 2018