Museum needs living treasures – volunteers

Volunteers at the museum come from all walks-of-life, a wide range of age groups and have different areas of interest, and support the museum in a variety of ways. Many are older, having both time and life experience they’re willing to share with us. For this group, a love of what museums do and the ethos of giving back to the community are usually the key drivers for them.

Others volunteers are keen to get experience that may help them on a career path. We’ve previously had Eastern Institute of Technology students who’ve helped alongside their studies and, often, directly related to them. For example students studying tourism may seek to get some experience at customer service, guiding tour groups, completing retail transactions and so on. Whereas design students work alongside our exhibitions team helping with tasks related to exhibition design and development. These interactions provide mutual benefits for both parties.

This week our Friends of the Museum and volunteers were invited to a private curated tour of our latest exhibition The House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville. During the subsequent afternoon tea, I found myself sitting between two current volunteers – one aged 15 and the other 83 (who started as a volunteer when she was 15).

Bridget Bewick, aged 15, from Napier Girls High School is our youngest volunteer. Bridget was seeking to add some value to the community, alongside completing an assignment towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award. Bridget has done jobs such as cleaning display cases (not exciting but it always needs to be done) and helping the exhibition team prepare base boards by covering them in fabric before objects are displayed on them. These have now been used in The House of Webb exhibition.

Sometimes a first interaction can lead to a lifelong passion and commitment – I wonder if a future Director will be talking to an 83 year old Bridget in years to come!

As with many not-for-profit organisations, volunteers are a crucial part of making the museum a success. Although the work can be hidden away at times, it makes a huge impact on what we’re able to deliver for the community. Some volunteers, such as Alva sit with our collection team scanning photographs and archives so they’re available digitally. While two volunteers, both named Carol, assist with mounting textiles for display (a meticulous and time-consuming job). Generally no museum has sufficient staff to keep on top of all the work that needs to be done and volunteers make a huge difference.

We thank and celebrate our volunteers in a number of small ways. Last week was National Volunteers Week so a special tour through our offsite collection store was organised. Not an area most of our visitor hosting volunteers get to see. What was really nice was that part of that tour was led by our collection volunteers who got to host and share with our front-of-house volunteers.

We’re lucky to have such a wonderful and dedicated group of people who help and support us in the work we do and they’re a very special and important part of our museum family.

30 June 2018

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 30th June 2018


Letters from NZ get star billing in latest exhibition

One of our many archive treasures is a plain red book with ‘Letters from New Zealand’, printed in gold on a somewhat fragile spine. This book contains letters written by members of the Webb family (Patty, her husband Reverend Anthony, their seven children and three nephews) to Mary Webb, Anthony’s sister living in England. Covering 1884-1885 the letters record the family’s journey to New Zealand, arrival at Dunedin, then Napier, and finally setting up home at Ormondville. Throughout, the letters are peppered with delightful accounts of daily life, as well as watercolours and sketches to further describe events. Mary considered the letters to have immense significance and bound them together to keep them safe. ‘Letters from New Zealand’ is the hero object in MTG Hawke’s Bay’s latest exhibition, The House of Webb, a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville – opening to the public today.

Early in May 1884, the Webb family left their home in Stockingford and rushed to London. The impetus for their sudden departure was a letter from Willie, Anthony and Patty’s second son, who had been sent to New Zealand for health reasons. In the letter, Willie wrote: “the doctor said I would not live more than two months more.”

Hoping to see Willie again, the Webb family boarded the ‘British Queen’, an old vessel taking its final voyage between England and New Zealand. The main drawback of the ship was the infestation of cockroaches and rats. Cockroaches were everywhere, in the food, beds and on ceilings. At night, rats became adventurous, running along ledges between the cabins and peering out from dark corners.

Arriving at Port Chalmers, Dunedin on 2 July 1884, Anthony learnt that a clergyman’s position awaited him in Ormondville, Southern Hawke’s Bay. Changing vessels, the party arrived at Napier on “a very quiet dreamy sort of afternoon.” Two days after arriving, Anthony and Patty received a letter informing them that Willie had died in Tonga. Anthony stood on the edge of Bluff Hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean and thought of WilIie, “I seemed to realize the parting more than at any time.”

The Webb family arrived in New Zealand during a time of immense change in local society and landscape, as the deforestation of Te Tapere-nui-a-Whātonga ‘Seventy Mile Bush’ was being carried out by Scandinavian workers brought in by the New Zealand Government. This mighty forest, once lush with trees and bird life, was slowly decimated: a railway and roads were built and the land turned into pasture. While Europeans considered the clearing of the bush a great achievement, to the hapū of the region the extent of destruction was to have unknown consequences to their home and ways of life.

Anthony was the first permanent Anglican minister in the Ormondville area. To serve his scattered parishioners, he organised weeknight services at sawmills in small communities. He became acquainted with the Scandinavian and German families and commenced weekly services on the ‘German Line’. Known for his caring, kindly and self-sacrificing attitude, Anthony was summoned to those in need regardless of religious beliefs, earning him many close friends within the community.

The family quickly settled into Ormondville, where life was exhilarating, challenging and adventurous – so different to their sedate existence in Stockingford. The men found employment sawmilling and on farms, while the women adjusted to the daily round of household and farming chores. Forming strong bonds with Ormondville, Patty and Anthony along with four of their daughters lived there for the remainder of their days. Summing up their love for the area are Patty’s words: “A prettier sight than the Ruahines on a bright spring morning can hardly be imagined. Their snowy tops look dazzlingly white, with a sky of the deepest blue overhead, and the air is so clear and pure that they look much nearer than they really are.”

We invite you to come and step into the world of the Webb family.

  • Chamber Music NZ – Heath Quartet, Sunday June 24, Century Theatre. Tickets available from Ticketek
  • TEDx Hastings St, with the theme of culture, TEDx Hastings St will explore culture in every sense of the term, Saturday July 7, 9:45am – 4:30pm, Century Theatre. Tickets available from Ticketek

Gail Pope – Curator Social History, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 23rd June 2018

Social history to the fore at MTG

With artist Yuki Kihara’s exhibition now over and the next art installation another month away, social history has come to the fore at MTG. And yet, art continues to enrich spaces throughout the museum.

Catching the light in the front foyer is Israel Birch’s work ‘Tai Aroha.’ Working with stainless steel pigmented with rich shades of blue, Birch has ground and etched fluid patterns that shimmer all over the surface, creating the effect of flowing water. Birch describes his technique as a new form of carving, where “carving is about the shaping of light.” His work is placed just around the corner from a poutokomanawa (carved ancestral figure) of Birch’s ancestor Te Kāuru o Te Rangi, who has long been a source of inspiration for him.

‘Tai Aroha’ will remain in place for another month before the entire wall that it hangs on becomes a platform for the artwork of Natalie Robertson. We are pleased to host Natalie’s project as part of Hastings City Art Gallery’s biennial ‘EAST’ exhibition, which is extending beyond the gallery’s walls for the first time this year to become a region-wide event.

Artist George Nuku will create collaborative art displays at both institutions in the form of installations titled ‘Bottled River’ and ‘Bottled Ocean’: addressing the degradation of fresh and salt water respectively.

Meanwhile, recent additions within the exhibition ‘Tēnei Tonu’ include an assemblage of five diverse artworks. A painting by renowned weaver Toi Te Rito Maihi of methodically woven harakeke, stylised into perfect precision, hangs above works by Joan Trollope, Para Matchitt, Gary Waldrom, and Jacob Scott. These collection pieces were chosen for their connections to Ngāti Kahungunu, either through the artists’ whakapapa or the subjects shown in the work.

Trollope’s painting of ‘Tomato Pickers’ is particularly intriguing, as we know the least about the artist and her work. She painted this evocative scene in a rustic cubist style, using quick brushstrokes to sketch out solid figures working in the heat of a Hawke’s Bay summer. But if she was painting from a real scene, whereabouts is it, and who are the people depicted? And who was Joan Trollope? The only information on the artwork’s museum record is her lifetime dates (1914-1996), and an estimation of 1959 for the date of the painting. She contributed a landscape work to an outdoor exhibition shown in both Hastings and Napier in 1960. The only other mention of her I can find is in a programme for the 1964 exhibition of ‘The Group’ in Christchurch, which included five paintings by Trollope along with works by Angus, McCahon, Lusk, Henderson, Woollaston, Binney and many more leading figures in Pākehā art of the time. It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who knows more about Joan Trollope or of other works of hers that must be hanging on walls somewhere.

  • CMNZ Presents: Heath Quartet. Thrilling audiences with their dynamic and charismatic performances, the Heath Quartet are one of Britain’s most exciting chamber ensembles. Century Theatre, Sunday 24 June, 5:00pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

16 June 2018

Image caption: OBSCURE ARTIST: ‘Tomato Pickers’ by Joan Trollope, painted circa 1959.

Jess Mio, Curator – Art

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 16th June 2018


Nyree Dawn Porter Exhibition extended due to popular demand

This week the team have been busy de-installing the Yuki Kihara: Te Taenga Mai o Salome exhibition. Weaving together Sāmoan, Māori and Pākehā histories, this exhibition received a special mention at the Museum Aotearoa Awards last month. I hope many of you had the opportunity to see the artworks before the exhibition closed.

As one display comes down, another takes its place. Preparation work is well underway for our next exhibition, ‘House of Webb: A Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville’, exploring the experiences and stories of the Webb family as they travelled from England and settled in Ormondville, near Norsewood, in 1884. This exhibition provides an opportunity to share different stories from around the region and bring out a new selection of objects from storage, including a number of archival items from the Webb collection.

We’ve also recently decided to extend ‘Nyree Dawn Porter: From Local Stage to Global Stardom’ due to popular demand from locals and travellers alike. We knew the Nyree story was a relevant and interesting one to share but have been pleasantly surprised by the level of positive feedback, showing the high esteem in which Nyree is held. The exhibition will now stay open until January 2019, so there’s plenty of time to ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy the display.

There’s only another month to see ‘He Manu Tīoriori: Songbirds’ however, with this exhibition set to close on 22 July. This object-rich and visually impressive display recently won a Museums Aotearoa Award for Exhibition Excellence – Taonga Māori. Sharing 100 years of Ngāti Kahungunu’s rich heritage of music composition and performance, there’s still time to come in and explore this exhibition.

Replacing ‘He Manu Tīoriori’ will be a new contemporary art display with artist George Nuku, of Omahu marae. George’s exhibition ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ images a future world where seas cover the Earth’s surface and marine life has mutated into alien, plastic forms. Working with school groups and the general public, George will create new artworks out of used plastic over the course of two weeks. These will then be displayed alongside pre-existing works; utilising light, moving image and sound to create an immersive experience.

At the same time, our talented team are also working on a new Art Deco exhibition to replace ‘Time for Tea: the much loved cuppa,’ which closes in October. We were originally going to replace this with an exhibition on silverware but have decided to save this one for a later date. Some work is about to start in the front foyer as well and you may get to see some new art appear soon – watch this space.

Exhibitions are probably the most well-known part of what museums do – it’s not just the exhibitions we put on but also how we develop them that’s important. Displays that have been developed collaboratively with the community are always more satisfying and have longer reaching outcomes than those which are solely developed in-house. We’re always looking and thinking about how we can engage our community, and we continue to welcome your feedback and suggestions, so please do share your thoughts.

Nyree photos - Carine (4)

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 9th June 2018

Excitement as MTG Hawke’s Bay’s digital learning programme nears

We’re really excited about the new digital learning programme we’ll be offering at MTG Hawke’s Bay in the coming months. We were delighted to be invited to partner with Te Papa, Auckland Museum and the Waitangi National Trust to roll-out a Digital Equity for All learning programme.

Called Raranga Matihiko – Weaving Digital Futures, this programme aims at increasing access to digital technology among students in lower decile schools. Digital fluency is a critical factor for truly participating in contemporary society and it’s great to see initiatives such as this that will ensure more students have access to these opportunities. Partnering with Te Papa means we have access to a proven programme they have already developed and tested. The programme will be adapted to the needs and desired learning outcomes of schools in our region, utilising our unique collections and exhibitions. Along with this partnership comes a range of digital equipment and ongoing support and guidance from Te Papa’s expert team of museum educators.

One of the most exciting parts of this programme is that it will support and foster engagement with schools and kura kaupapa in the region that we don’t currently work with. Providing access to the region’s collection and education programmes is a key driver for us and we’re pleased to have a new programme that will extend our reach. This programme will also enhance our relationship with our national museum and may lead to further interactions, exchanges and partnership opportunities in the future.

For our educators this new programme adds to the range of learning experiences we already provide, especially in the digital space. One of the recent programmes we’ve added which has proved very popular with schools is the Quake ’31 lesson. Students take on the role of reporter, researching the earthquake through the exhibition, archives and other material. They then develop a news broadcast which is filmed in front of a green screen – later adding video content in the background. This provides an opportunity for students to learn about the Hawke’s Bay earthquake as well as digital and film technology.

Another programme that is exceptionally popular is our annual Matariki lessons – this year focusing on poi work. Starting in our exhibitions students see kapa haka, traditional poi made from raupo and flax, and historic footage of some stunning poi performances. We’ve partnered with Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre to teach students waiata and kanikani (dance moves). Students then develop their own poi dance, supported by performers from the Kahurangai Māori Dance Theatre. You can get a taste of this talented dance group in the welcome video, which runs on continuous loop in our Tēnei Tonu gallery.

Matariki is an important period in the calendar for Māori, heralding the start of a new year. Traditionally this was a time for remembering tipuna and celebrating new life. Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as Pleiades. There are many ways to celebrate the Māori New Year around the region, but why not kickstart the festivities with a visit to MTG Hawke’s Bay.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 2nd June 2018