Notre Dame a true global taonga

Watching Notre Dame, a building deeply steeped in history, ravaged by fire was a truly terrible sight and my heart goes out to the people of France. An entire city was galvanised in shock and grief – and the world watched on in sympathy.

Such is the power of both history and culture – Notre Dame is an icon of Paris and France, and a stronghold of centuries of history. Buildings, places and taonga such as these connect us and ground us with our past, with who we are and give pause and weight to where we are going.

Objects, places and buildings which have lived through history and seen wonderful and terrible times become infused with life, meaning, power, sorrow, joy and more. The Notre Dame fire is not just a sorrow for France but, as a truly international taonga, is a sorrow for us all.

Moments like these are a reminder of the significance of the treasures we care for on behalf of the people of Hawke’s Bay, and it’s the stories behind them that give them mana, meaning and connection.

Museums hold history in their collections, and they also hold the history of our profession, with changing trends and fashions in museum practice over the years. Once it was common practice to collect objects as fine examples of a taiaha or a vase for example without gathering their history and stories. While we will still, on rarer and rarer occasions, collect good ‘examples’ of a period without knowing the deeper history, this is no longer normal practice.

Today objects are mostly collected due to the relevance of their connection to a person, time, event or place. We want to gather as much information as possible about the objects in our collection so that we can tell rich and meaningful stories in our galleries – your stories and the stories of the people who came before.

One person who is trying to reconnect history is Rose Mohi, Chair of Te Rōpū Kaiawhina Taonga (our Māori Advisory Group), who is on a personal journey around the world to find and reconnect all the carvings from a meeting house Heretaunga III. This house was commissioned by Karaitiana Takamoana and carved by master carver Hoani Tāhu. The project stopped when Karaitiana died in 1879 and subsequently the house was never completed, with the carvings now scattered around the world. Why would Rose put so much time, energy and personal effort into such a task – because history matters, because significant objects connect people, because it is the right thing to do.

  • Napier Performing Arts Aria Contest. Aria preliminaries today, Saturday 20 April, followed by finals tomorrow, Easter Sunday 21 April. MTG Century Theatre, Saturday 20 April 6:30-10:30pm and Sunday 21 April 7:30 – 10:30pm. Door sales only
  • School Holiday Programme – Sculpture Fun. Make a fabulous sculpture from driftwood to hang in your house or garden. All materials provided, please wear old clothes. Wednesday 24 April, 10-11:30, suitable for ages 8-12. Spaces are limited. Bookings available through Eventfinda
  • School Holiday Programme – Animation & Greenscreen. Learn how to create an animation, based on an ANZAC story. Dress up in costumes and have your photo taken in a WWI scene. Bring a memory stick so you can take your digital work home. ANZAC Day Thursday 25 April, 10-11:30, suitable for ages 7-12. Spaces are limited. Bookings available through Eventfinda
  • The Big Bike Film Night. Adventure, love and friendship are all brought to you through the best cycling short films from around the world. There are stories to captivate, make you think, and inspire you to get out and ride. MTG Century Theatre, Saturday 27 April, 7-9:15pm. Tickets available through Trybooking or at MTG
  • Behind the Scenes – Archaeology Collections & the Story of Hawke’s Bay. Join us for a look at the archaeology collections and what they can tell us about the history of Hawke’s Bay. Not at MTG – meet at the steps of the British American Tobacco building, 1 Ossian Street, 10 minutes before the start of the tour. Thursday 2 May, 12-1pm. Spaces are limited. Bookings available through Eventfinda. Free event.
  • Thomas Heatherwick lecture. Join acclaimed British lecturer Ian Swankie for an inspiring presentation about the extraordinary British designer, Thomas Heatherwick who designed the spectacular Olympic Cauldron, the iconic new London bus and Cape Town’s stunning Museum of Contemporary African Art. MTG Century Theatre, Sunday 5 May, 3-4pm. This event has been made possible by The Arts Society Hawke’s Bay in partnership with MTG Hawke’s Bay. Free event but registration is required. Bookings available through Eventfinda

Notre Dame

Fire damage on the exterior of the cathedral with stained glass windows destroyed by the blaze. Photo / Getty
Image courtesy of Hawke’s Bay Today

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 20 April 2019


Laughing Buddha, a recent acquisition for MTG

One of MTG Hawke’s Bays most recent acquisitions is a jade sculpture of Budai (布袋), currently on display in our front foyer.  Also known as the Laughing Buddha, Budai was a Chinese monk named Qieci who had a happy nature, humorous personality and eccentric lifestyle. This particular sculpture of Budai was purchased in 1985 from Hong Kong by restaurateurs Alice Lim-Buchanan and Bryan Buchanan. Proudly displayed in their restaurant, Bucks Great Wall Restaurant, patrons were free to rub his belly to bring them good luck and extraordinary abundance.

Bucks Great Wall Restaurant was based in the T&G building (Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society). This three-storied building, built in 1936, sits on Marine Parade opposite the Soundshell and is more commonly known as The Dome or sometimes The Clock Tower.

Bryan and Alice have now gifted their laughing Buddha to the museum and, as he will be in living memory for many locals, we have placed him on open display so you can come in and relive those memories by rubbing his stomach while he’s on display.

It’s through the generosity of the community that museums and galleries develop their collections, with a significant portion usually gifted directly by individuals such as Bryan and Alice. We receive many items from individuals who recognise the importance of collecting and keeping histories and stories for future generations. We’re incredibly grateful for that recognition and the overall generosity of spirit within the Hawke’s Bay community.

We also purchase a small number of collection items and the MTG Foundation works incredibly hard to raise funds and prudently manage finances to support the museum in purchasing key pieces to enhance the collection. Purchased items are generally, but not solely, artworks. The most recent example is a Nigel Brown work titled No 8 Wire.

Choosing what we do and don’t acquire for the collection is not always a simple task and it can require much robust debate among the acquisition committee. We cannot collect every single piece of history that is offered to us, as much as we might want to, and we have a collection strategy that helps guide our decision-making.

We’re always grateful to members of the community who offer items to us, even if we don’t ultimately choose to accept them. Sometimes donors are surprised at the things which might excite us that they hadn’t thought important. Sadly, we also sometimes have to say no to things a donor thinks is vital for the museum to keep and we try to manage this carefully and with respect. Our ultimate aim is to have a cohesive collection that allows us to tell key stories of the region alongside sharing inspiration through local, national and international artworks.

We love being offered items by the community and really appreciate those who are generous enough to make such an offer – community is, after all, what makes a museum.

  • It’s Love, Isn’t It? Poetry and chamber music with guitar – performed by Dame Kate Harcourt, Sir Jon Trimmer with music by Philip Norman performed by Matthew Marshall, Tessa Petersen and Heleen du Plessis. MTG Century Theatre, Monday 15 April, 7:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Julien Van Mellaerts and James Baillieu – prize winning baritone and pianist join together to explore a selection of song ranging from A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, to folksong O Waly Waly, to Cole Porter’s The Tale of the Oyster. MTG Century Theatre, Tuesday 16 April, 7:30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • School Holiday Programme – Screen Printing. Bring along your own cotton white T-shirt or another item and create a magnificent design. Tuesday 16 April, 10-12, suitable for ages eight and older. Cost includes materials. Spaces are limited. Bookings available through Eventfinda.
  • School Holiday Programme – Landscape Painting. Learn some simple techniques and get inspiration from artworks on display to create your own masterpiece. Thursday 18 April, 10-11:30, suitable for ages 8-12. Spaces are limited. Bookings available through Eventfinda.
  • Napier Performing Arts Aria Contest. Aria preliminaries on Saturday 20 April followed by finals on Easter Sunday 21 April. MTG Century Theatre, Saturday 20 April 6:30-10:30pm and Sunday 21 April 7:30 – 10:30pm. Door sales only
  • For a full list of school holiday programmes please visit our website

Budai_13 April 2019

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 13 April 2019

We’re now in the final month that The House of Webb, A Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville exhibition will be on display at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

This object and text rich exhibition is comprised almost entirely of Webb family memorabilia – the sheer volume and eclectic nature of which is astounding. The collection is mainly made up of material from Webb family members most of whom immigrated to New Zealand, but also includes letters the family wrote back home to England. The vast majority of the collection is archival: letters, diaries, sketches and photographs but there are also examples of china, furniture, clothing and textiles, paintings, and jewellery, along with everyday items. Collectively they hold a mixture of familial significance, aesthetic value, and utilitarian appeal. All this material eventually came to Elizabeth Webb, who subsequently gifted the collection to the museum.

Displayed in the exhibition are three closely related items belonging to William James Patterson, the brother of Reverend Webb’s wife Patty – these are a painting of William, the costume he wore when posing for the portrait, and a lock of his hair sealed in an envelope. On the envelope is written in beautiful script: “William’s first hair”. Poignantly, a lock of hair was described in Victorian times as “the most delicate and lasting of our materials and survives us like love and because it is so light it escapes the idea of death.” Sadly William died at the age of 13 years.

The ornate gold framed painting, dated 1830, shows William at 3 years old, seated in a child’s chair at a small table playing with his toys – a house, soldiers and farm animals. He is wearing a blue and white striped off-the-shoulder dress, embellished by ruffles and embroidery, socks and black boots and his hair resembles the silky curls of babyhood. In the cabinet next to the portrait, stands a child’s mannequin displaying the dress William is wearing in the painting.

Throughout history, clothing plays an integral role in the depiction of childhood – providing insights into changes in child-rearing theory and practice, gender roles, the position of children in society, and similarities and differences between children’s and adults’ clothing. Prior to the early 1800’s, clothing worn by infants and young children shared a distinctive common feature: their clothing lacked gender distinction and to their contemporaries, skirts or dresses were entirely appropriate for small children of any gender.

At birth, children wore long linen or cotton dresses with fitted bodices and full skirts that extended a foot or more beyond their feet. Once a child began crawling and later walking, they were ‘short coated’: the hemlines of the dresses were moved to ankle length or even shorter so the child had more freedom of movement. Worn underneath the costume was a set of stays, believed to support the back of the child and encourage ‘proper’ posture. The bodices of the dress often had leading strings or bands attached to the shoulders to help parents guide a young child learning to walk.

Little boys wore these outfits until they reached between four and seven years when they were ceremoniously ‘breeched’. Breeching meant a boy was mature enough to wear miniature versions of adult clothing: coats, vests, breeches and would have his hair cut for the first time.

The breeching ceremony symbolized that a boy was leaving childhood behind and beginning to take on adult roles and responsibilities. The child’s breeching age varied, depending on parental choice and the boy’s maturity, which was defined on how masculine he appeared and acted. After breeching, mothers seemed to have less influence on their sons: instead fathers would get much more involved in overseeing training and education. Boys essentially went from the petticoats of childhood directly into the adult clothing appropriate for their station in life.

It’s not every day that a museum holds a painting along with items represented in it. So please, take the opportunity to come in and have a final look at The House of Webb, A Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville exhibition and this amazing collection.


Written by Gail Pope, MTG Curator Social History
Published in Hawke’s Bay Today 6 April 2019