Year of art achievements and change

Looking back on 2018 I can’t help but feel a sense of awe and pride in what the team at MTG Hawke’s Bay have achieved. It’s been another incredibly busy year with some big achievements and changes along the way.

The team won the Exhibition Excellence – Taonga Māori Award from Museums Aotearoa for our “He Manu Tioriori” exhibition, exploring 100 years of Ngāti Kahungunu’s love affair with music. This exhibition was popular with visitors and locals alike, showcasing the rich talent within Ngāti Kahungunu for singing, composing, song writing, performing and more.

We welcomed in our library colleagues, who reopened to the public from the MTG building early in the year. It’s been a bit of an adjustment for both staff and public but everything seems to have settled down and is working really well. With the arrival of the library we were able to remove the entry fee to the museum, leading to a dramatic rise in visitor numbers, build an access ramp to the Century Theatre Foyer and establish wifi in the building.

Another significant event was signing a contract with Te Papa to provide the digital education programme Raranga Matihiko. Working in partnership with Te Papa, Auckland Museum and Waitangi National Trust, we provide digital education targeted towards lower decile schools in the region. This programme aims to ensure all students have access to digital technology and the opportunity to gain digital literacy skills within a museum environment – rich with their heritage and stories.

Our regular education programme benefited from the ongoing support of Napier Port. And this year we welcomed new sponsors; the Masonic Hotel and Esk Valley Wines who provide annual sponsorship for accommodation and wine. The New Zealand Institute of Architects, Napier Branch, provided one-off sponsorship towards the development of our latest exhibition “The Architectural Legacy of J.A. Louis Hay”. We’re very appreciative of the support we receive from our sponsors, which all goes toward providing the best possible museum experience for the region.

The end of year highlight was the unveiling of IVY our beautiful new sculpture at the entranceway to the museum. This stunning sculpture was the product of incredible generosity from the Reydan and Roger Weiss Trust and we’re very privileged to have an artwork of this calibre not only in our region but on our very doorstep.

All this was achieved by the amazing team here, alongside fare-welling and welcoming staff, hosting film festivals and other events, while at the same time producing a simply stunning array of outstanding exhibitions. We were delighted by the popularity of the Nyree Dawn Porter exhibition, while the overall stand out exhibition for our visitors seems to have been “George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118” and the mesmerising effect George has produced with discarded plastic – creating a beautiful immersive experience.
We wouldn’t be able to do half the things we do without the enduring support of many, many people. To our Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust Board members, the Hawke’s Bay Museums Foundation, Te Rōpū Kaiawhina Taonga, MTG volunteers, patrons, sponsors and friends – thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ongoing support and encouragement. To all those who have visited throughout the year and for your overwhelmingly positive feedback, thank you. We hope to continue to delight, challenge and surprise you in the year ahead.

  • Summer Cycling Carnival – The Cycle Chic Film Tour, a captivating selection of short cycling films to inspire, encourage and celebrate women who love to bike, Friday 4 January, 7:30pm. Tickets available at MTG or online at
  • Twilight Art Class, enjoy classes in the gallery exploring various mediums used by the Webb family throughout their journeys. This session focuses on watercolour. Tuesday 8 January, 6-8pm. $35 per class ($30 for friends of MTG). Please register to secure a place 06 835 7781.
  • Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation – NZ Singing School Classics, 11 January, 7.30pm in the Century Theatre. Tickets available through Ticketek –

29 dec_mtg-george-nuku-exhibition-aug-2018-16

Image Caption: Detail from the ‘George Nuku: Bottled Ocean 2118’ exhibition

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 29 December 2018



House of Webb celebrates NZ journey

On 17 July 1884, Reverend Anthony Webb, with his wife Patty and their family of eleven, arrived in Napier from Stockingford, England after an eight-week voyage. Once ashore, they were greeted by Bishop Stuart of the Waiapu Diocese who offered Anthony the inaugural clergyman’s position at the Church of Epiphany, Ormondville. The ministry included performing services in poorer settlements and supporting incumbants as far afield as Te Aute, Waipawa and Wairoa. Anthony accepted.

Currently on display at MTG Hawke’s Bay is the “House of Webb: a Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville” exhibition. The Webb family story is closely connected to the Church of Epiphany and the first Christmas service held within its walls.

On Sunday 20 January 2019, the Church of Epiphany in Ormondville celebrates its 135th anniversary. Under Heritage New Zealand, the church has a Category 2 listing – signifying it’s a “historic place of historical or cultural significance or value”.

Built in totara and matai the church, when the Webb arrived the church was a modest unlined building, with plain windows and a steep roof. It had few furnishings other than eight chairs and a small table; there was no provision for lighting or heating and during high winds, for which the area was renowned, the walls moved drastically in and out. When the family arrived ‘tree trunks’ in all stages of decay, surrounded the village and church.

For both the family and church 1884 was significant: Reverend Webb performed the inaugural Christmas service within the church walls, whilst he and his family experienced a New Zealand Christmas.

As the day loomed closer Anthony, beset with homesickness and suffering from grief at the loss of his beloved son Willie earlier that year, wrote that he was “not much inclined for Xmas keeping this year it seems all so strange and unreal”.

The climate was an obvious contrast during this Yule-tide period. Patty commented in a letter to family: “I suppose you are all rejoicing in warm fires, evergreens & winter fruits – whilst we are sitting with open windows, roses & honey-suckles blooming. We are having gooseberry tarts and new potatoes & our peas and beans & all summer vegetables are just coming on”.

The day before Christmas, the family, with help from the schoolmaster’s wife, decorated the church. The windows ledges were laced with an evergreen creeper and the walls clothed with tree fern fronds in an arrangement “something like Prince of Wales feathers”.  Anthony was amazed at the size of the fronds, which reached from floor to ceiling and judged them “very handsome”. Patty made several wreathes using roses, honeysuckle and variegated foxgloves: overall the decorations were effective, simple and very pretty.  To accompany the choir, who had been practising for days, Anthony borrowed the Wesleyan Chapel’s harmonium.

On Christmas Eve, the children hung up their stockings in readiness for the morning, but as Patty regretfully revelled, “we had not much to put in them. Papa put a penny in each and a few odds and ends”.

The Christmas morning church service was very successful, with over a hundred people present. In England, it was customary for the Vicar to give gifts to the poor, however in Ormondville the reverse happened: at the end of the service a great many presents were gifted to the family including fresh vegetables, gooseberries and beautiful strawberries, “a nice mug of clotted cream” and “a large slab of butter”. When thanked, the locals replied they were “only too pleased to send them as they were so thankful to have a clergyman settled among them”.

Because it was so hot in the afternoon, a game of tennis was out of the question: instead, the family packed up a light picnic and explored the bush in search of a stream. In the coolness of the evening, a competitive game of tennis finished off what was a uniquely New Zealand Christmas.

On behalf of Laura and staff at the Museum, I wish you all a wonderful and safe Christmas and New Year.

  • Te Tiriti Ora: Our Living Treaty display opens to the public today, Saturday 22 December
  • We will be closed Christmas Day, 25 December, and re-open at 9:30am on Boxing Day, 26 December
  • Summer Cycling Carnival – The Cycle Chic Film Tour, a captivating selection of short cycling films to inspire, encourage and celebrate women who love to bike, Friday 4 January, 7:30pm. Tickets available at MTG or online at

22 Dec 2018 image

Image Caption: Christmas card in the Webb collection (date unknown)

Gail Pope, Curator – Social History, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 22 December 2018

Makeover for retail shop

Great things are happening at the MTG Hawke’s Bay store. Having recently appointed Lisa Varga to the role of Customer Services Team Leader there’s been a dramatic change in our shop. Lisa was previously in charge of retail at Auckland Museum and in the short time she’s been with us Lisa has brought her wealth of retail knowledge to bear.

I’ve certainly bought a significant portion of my Christmas shopping from the museum this year including several very reasonably priced books, beautiful handcrafted wooden platters, kitsets, compacts and so on. There’s a huge range of books available covering a wide range of topics; architecture, ecology, design, New Zealand history and more. One of the books I’ve bought for my summer reading is “Speeches That Shaped New Zealand 1814-1956” by Hugh Templeton, Ian Templeton and Josh Easby – amazing value for only $19.99.

Our expanded range of te reo books for children is a great way to encourage the little ones started on their te reo journey. We’ve several new jewellery lines available from local artists and makers including Twigg, Addie Wainohu and Clarence Collier. There’s a beautiful selection of handcrafted wooden platters in different woods and sizes from MZ Design – perfect for the person who has everything and, as these come in flat boxes easy for packing in a suitcase or sending overseas, great as a gift for international family and friends.

You’ll find many items perfect for stocking stuffers from beautiful compacts, note books and pads, brooches, socks and scarves, to beautiful cloths for glass lens. Also going in the stockings at my house are some fun kitsets of New Zealand birds, tuatara and tiki. For those of you on a tight budget there are some incredible bargains to be found in the shop including $10.00 tee-shirts.

Our products generally align in some way with our core business – reflecting the experiences you have in the galleries, referencing the collections, or aligned with arts and culture. Some of our new products include Gordon Walters and Dick Frizzel prints and branded products which link to artists held in our collection. We have the “Louis Hay Architecture” book which sits nicely alongside our latest exhibition “The Architectural Legacy of J.A. Louis Hay”.  

Being a museum and art gallery it’s important we maintain a level of quality to our shop offering in keeping with our high quality brand. Trying to get the balance right in retail can be tricky. Catering for international tourists means having light, easy to pack items which reflect their experiences of the country. New Zealand travellers want items from the region and something different from what they can get at home, while for our locals we need to provide high quality items for gifts or personal purchase.

Lisa’s done a fabulous job in maintaining quality, while supporting local makers and providing reasonably priced product as well – there really is something for everyone in our newly-stocked shop.

  • Public Art Guided Tour with Art Curator, Jess Mio. Thursday, 20 December at midday, meet in the MTG front foyer. Free event, all welcome.
  • Late night shopping at the Museum. Enjoying a glass of Esk Valley wine with some nibbles and a 10% discount while you shop for those last-minute presents. Thursday, 20 December, 5:30 – 7pm
  • Late night at Napier Library to stock up on your summer reading. Thursday, 20 December, 5:30 – 7pm. All welcome!
  • Te Tiriti Ora – our living treaty display opens to the public on Saturday 22 December.


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 15 December 2018

Exhibition of taonga opens in Waipawa

In one of New Zealand’s oldest inland towns, Waipawa, founded in 1860, stands the historic BNZ building (circa 1887), which is now the Central Hawke’s Bay Settlers Museum. The museum has recently opened its exhibition of local taonga Maori “Ngā Taonga o Tamatea – Te Hokinga Mai: The Treasures of Tamatea – The Returning”. Dedicated to artefacts from Central Hawke’s Bay, the aim is to build relationships between the museum, local iwi and the Taiwhenua. The Director of MTG, Laura Vodanovich, and I attended the opening last Saturday.

The crowd were ushered in at 5.30am to follow the Tohunga chanting his prayers, evoking the protection of the gods of old. Listening, looking, walking past the exhibits: a moa-hunter toki found in Putere Creek Porangahau, and a koruru from the top of the meeting house Te Poho o Kahungunu which stood at Porangahau in a time far extinct. These and other valuable objects, hei tiki, taiaha, patu, all on exhibition:a link to the past of Central Hawke’s Bay.

Following back outside, protocol was adhered to with tangata whenua welcoming manuhiri and thanking those who worked on the exhibition. Dr Roger Maaka, Chairperson of the Kahungunu Tamatea Taiwhenua was the first to address everyone. In his welcome he spoke of the importance of this exhibition to the local people of Central Hawke’s Bay. As the first exhibition of its type at the CHB Settlers Museum, Roger noted it was just a start and would continue and build into the future. He applauded Jana Uhlirova, Curator and Manager of the CHB Settlers Museum, for her initiative and tenacity in producing this exhibition, which gathered taonga from MTG Hawke’s Bay, Te Papa Tongarewa, and from private collections. Her worship the Mayor Alex Walker also spoke on the importance of such an exhibition, the bridging of connections between local iwi, the community, the museum, and the Council. Rangitane Don Tipene also spoke on his voluntary work alongside Jana, identifying and collecting artifacts, mounting them for display and developing the labels to sit alongside each item. Don also worked on ensuring the correct information was available when showing groups through the exhibition and has been busy with school groups since. It is his way of giving from a hapū tangata whenua perspective and ensuring knowledge is passed on to future generations.

A role of MTG Hawke’s Bay Napier is to conserve, protect, and document the more than 6500 taonga Māori that are in the collection. A substantial collection for any museum let alone a provincial museum, and very valuable. This involves a duty to share with other museums in Aotearoa, to help exhibit these taonga Māori for iwi of all, and collaborate closely with other Hawke’s Bay museums such as the CHB Settlers Museum and their “Nga Taonga o Tamatea – Te Hokinga Mai” exhibition, showing until 1st March 2019. Mauriora kia tātau, tātau us.

Opening Nga Taonga1

  • The Architectural Legacy of J. A. Louis Hay exhibition opens to the public today. Saturday, 8 December.
  • Behind the Scenes Tour: Feeling Festive. From historic Christmas greeting cards to paintings of sunny summer days, celebrate the festive season with a look at the collection. Tuesday, 11 December, 12pm. Free event. Spaces are limited, please register at eventfinda.
  • Digital Technologies & Computer Science Teacher Professional Learning Event. Free one-day interactive workshop for Y9 & 10 Teachers of any discipline. Wednesday, 12 December, 9.30am – 2.30pm. Limited to 30 teachers, please contact if you have any questions or would like to register.


Te Hira Henderson, Curator Taonga Māori, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 8 December 2018

Exhibition highlights selection of beautiful Louis Hay plans

1 December 2018

The team are currently working on installing our next exhibition, which opens 8 December. Titled, The Architectural Legacy of J. A. Louis Hay, this exhibition will highlight a selection of beautiful Louis Hay plans held in the collection: some of these buildings grace our streets today, others were never realised.

Peter Shaw, in his book Louis Hay: Architect, described Louis Hay’s work as: “Every so often, in a distant place, there comes into existence someone with individuality and refined genius.”

“They live their life, not in a great city, at the centre of power. Instead in a quiet town … they choose to do their work: to solve problems with imagination, to create buildings of pleasing ornament and symmetry: to add to the sum total of beauty in the world.”

James Augustus Louis Hay chose to set up his architectural practice in a place of beauty: the quiet, seaside town of Napier in Hawke’s Bay.

He was born in 1881 at Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. His family later moved to Napier, where he attended Napier Boys’ High School before joining the architecture firm of Charles Tilleard Natusch.

At the conclusion of his three-year apprenticeship, Louis accepted an architectural position with Walter Finch’s well-established practice, also in Napier.

In 1906, he set up on his own: his first known buildings in Napier were finely crafted modern houses that were simple and modest in scale.

True to his nature, he was attentive to the smallest detail: including bespoke fireplaces, doors, interior lights, lead light glass, built-in furniture, sundials, fences and pergolas.

The 1920s were Louis Hay’s most prolific years, designing buildings primarily of a domestic nature with the exception of the Central Fire Station, Tennyson St (1921) and the Mothers Rest, Clive Square (1926).

Fondly remembered as a genial, sociable man, in his professional life Louis Hay was also a perfectionist: intolerant of shabby work and shortcuts.

His commitment to detail engendered great loyalty and respect from his employees.

Thelma Williamson, a drafter in Louis Hay’s employment for many years, recorded that: “everything he touched with pen and pencil was sheer art”.

At age 50, Louis Hay was in his third decade as an architect in Napier.

Following the February 3, 1931, Hawke’s Bay earthquake, he became a vital member of the Napier Reconstruction Committee along with the Associated Architects: both formed to ensure that primarily local architects would undertake the rebuilding of the town

During the years 1931-1933, Louis Hay’s office was extremely busy and he was fortunate to have in his employ the highly skilled drafters Leonard Wolfe, Thelma Williamson, and Arthur Milne.

Louis Hay’s practice was solely responsible for about 13 constructions in the Napier central business district and Ahuriri, one of which was his own office building: a slender and elegant example in Herschell St.

During this period, he also completed what is generally regarded as his best-known building, the new National Tobacco Company premises at Ahuriri.

Louis Hay’s most ambitious project during 1934 was the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP) building.

The following year, Leo Bestall, director of the Napier Art Gallery, commissioned him to draw up plans for a Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum.

Both buildings derived their ornamentation from American architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

As the rebuilding of the town slowed down, so too did architectural contracts.

By 1940, Louis Hay’s practice was in decline aside from small jobs commissioned by wealthy tobacco merchant, Gerhard Husheer.

Louis Hay died February 4, 1948, and is buried at Park Island Cemetery.

MTG Hawke’s Bay appreciates sponsorship from the New Zealand Institute of Architects (Hawke’s Bay branch) for this exhibition.

* Exhibition tour House of Webb: A Victorian Family’s Journey to Ormondville with Curator Gail Pope. December 4, 11am, meet in front foyer – free entry, no bookings required

* Twilight Art Class, held in the exhibition space, explore various mediums used by the Webb family throughout their journeys. This session focuses on comic illustration. December 4, 6-8pm. $35 per class ($30 for friends of MTG). Please register to secure a place 06 835 7781

* The Architectural Legacy of J. A. Louis Hay exhibition opens to the public Saturday, December 8.

Gail Pope, Curator – Social History, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 1 December 2018