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 events@mtghawkesbay.com
  • 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

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