Walking among the headstones

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Napier Hill Cemetery 5

During January, February and March, 2014 MTG Hawke’s Bay will again host three guided tours in the Napier Cemetery. These highly successful tours were launched in November 2008 in association with the exhibition Somebody’s Darling, Stories from the Napier Cemetery, curated by Peter Wells and Gail Pope and have run every summer since.

Row upon row of hand crafted headstones contrast vividly against the startling blue of the sky, shadows cast by the varying hues and patterns of the trees and leaves produce constant movement and dance over headstones and the air is punctuated with birdsong. Spectacular views looking out towards Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak can be glimpsed between trees contorted by age and weather. The beautifully crafted headstones identify well-known local and national identities as well as the ‘everyday’ men, women and children who also have extraordinary stories associated with their lives, and their deaths.

In conjunction with the exhibition a group of keen volunteer gardeners, Jenny Horne, Jenny Baker, Heather Carter, Sue Langford, Peter Wells and Gail Pope formed the Greening the Graveyard Group. Their aim, with the support of the Napier City Council, was and is, to turn a stark grey environment into one of colour, fragrance and life.

Napier Cemetery 4

The income received from the cemetery tours each year has been used to support the museum redevelopment project and for the Greening the Graveyard Group to purchase plants to enhance the beauty of the cemetery. For the last three years the Greening the Graveyard Group have also used the funds to purchase new works for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.

Napier Cemetery 2

Napier Cemetery 1

The first item purchased by the Greening the Graveyard Group was A Study of Two Figures by George Wood (1898-1963). Wood was a New Zealand draughtsman, illustrator and artist. He is best known for his graphic stylized images which capture form and light through simple line with the use of unbroken colour.

His work reflects the concerns and style of the Art Deco movement, which fed into the modernist Avant-garde and also shows the influence of Māori culture and the Pacific Islands. Such works as this are extremely rare and particularly resonant within the context of the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust collection.

George Wood (1898-1963) A Study of Two Figures Printed in ink on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

George Wood (1898-1963), A Study of Two Figures
Printed in ink on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

The second piece purchased by the group was a repoussé tray made by Cedric Storey. Storey was an artist, panelbeater, sculptor and jeweller. He designed the Auckland City Council official coat of arms and created the much-loved dragon at the Auckland Zoo in the late 1950s. This tray is rare example of a New Zealand made piece of Arts & Crafts metalwork, rectangular in design with raised decoration at either end in the form of grapes and vine leaves.

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

This top, a sample garment from the Laurie Foon label, a designer and founder member of the Starfish clothing range was purchased for the collection in 2013. One of the many attributes of Starfish clothing was the understated detailing and relaxed lines that allowed the wearer to integrate the garment into their own unique style. The label was also known for a commitment and focus on environmental sustainability.

Laurie Foon Sample garment Silk and cotton Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

Laurie Foon, Sample garment, Silk and cotton
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

The most recent purchase, in late 2013 was the painting titled, In the Bath by New Zealand artist Murray Grimsdale. Grimsdale’s recurring concerns as an artist are the events and the people which surround him. His works are often domestic in scale and familial in subject.

Murray Grimsdale In the Bath Pastel on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

Murray Grimsdale, In the Bath, Pastel on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

The money raised over the summer 2014 tours will continue to be used to develop the collection and we look forward to sharing new acquisitions purchased by the Greening the Graveyard group over the coming year.

The guided walks are being held on the following dates at 2.00 pm:
Sunday January 26th
Sunday February 16th
Sunday March 23rd

Cost: $12 per adult, children free
Payment to be taken on the day.

Please wear sturdy footwear, a sunhat and take a bottle of water.
The tour meeting point is at the gates of the Cemetery, situated on Napier Terrace, next to the Botanical Gardens.

Tours do book out, so please book early to secure a place by calling MTG Hawke’s Bay, 06 833 9795 or email events@mtghawkesbay.com

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
January 2014

The photographs of the cemetery used in this post were taken by David Frost, Graphic Designer & Photographer, MTG Hawke’s Bay

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One Month In

As I sat down at my desk this morning I had rather a shock.  Today is the 21st October, which means MTG Hawke’s Bay has been open for one month today! The days have flown by and we are so enjoying welcoming visitors to our beautiful new facility. This month has seen an outstanding 12,000 museum and gallery admissions. Add to that all who have attended events, performances and film and MTG Hawke’s Bay has been very busy indeed.

As I write, the Customer Services Team are preparing to open the gallery doors, our Educators are welcoming a class from St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College, and the MTG Century Theatre is gearing up for day 6 of the NZ International Film Festival.

Just over one month ago all of the MTG team and many, many helping hands were in the final stages of preparation to welcome the public back to the MTG.  There were late nights, early starts and quite a few stressful moments.  Now we are (almost) recovered from the exhaustion I think we will soon look back with fond memories on the energy, exhilaration and anticipation of that final countdown to opening day.  

The MTG team would like to thank our talented team of installers, lighting specialists, AV developers, carpenters, bricklayers, designers, technicians and many more friends, colleagues, contractors and volunteers. To Stephen Salt, Rob Cherry, Mickey Golwacki, Martin Kelly, Alivia Kofoed, Sobranie Huang, Stephen Brookbanks, Clem Schollum, Chris Streeter, Jake Yocum, Beau Walsh, Gavin Walker, Greg Parker, Nick Giles, Gerard Beckinsdale, Dean Edgington, Sophia Smolenski, Marcus McShane, Adam Walker, Johann Nortje, Mike Slater, Te Rangi Tinirau, Tony Zondruska, Matt Kaveney, Elham Salari, Jon Hall – we couldn’t have done it without your expertise and dedication. It was great working with you and we hope to see you all back at MTG soon. 

Here are a few photographs captured in the last stages of exhibition installation:

Scott Hawkesworth assembling a case for Ūkaipō Dieter Coleman assembling a showcase in the Bestall Gallery

Tony Ives in the Annex Gallery

Gerard, Matt and Stu in the 1931 Earthquake exhibition

1931 earthquake exhibition cases ready for install

Stephen Brookbanks, Desna and Chad installing mounts in Ūkaipō

Artworks ready to hang in Architecture of the heart

Rob Cherry and Olivia Morris installing in the Bestall Gallery

Eloise Wallace, Public Programmes Team Leader, October 2013

The Path Not Taken

In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory or an unjust interest. Endeavour to gain, rather than to expose thy antagonist.
– William Penn

At points in our lives we have decisions to make which can take us down any multiple of roads, and result in a major redirection of the course we are currently taking. This was the situation Napier found itself in at the beginning of the 20th Century; to utilise and expand upon the natural harbour of the Ahuriri Lagoon or construct a breakwater port near Bluff Hill, both at considerable expense. It was a decision which divided not only the growing town, but the entire region. In the end the issue was resolved by natural forces. This lengthy conflict is well documented within our collection through detailed maps and heated opinion pieces.

By 1900 Napier had recovered from a deep depression. Freezing works, sheep scourers and blacksmiths began to establish themselves in the region. Coupled with an influx of residents and other growing towns in the region, Napier’s export and import market began to grow at an exponential rate. In order to service this sector, a major new port was needed. Napier was in the enviable position of having a choice of harbours; it not only had a suitable coast line for a breakwater harbour, but also a sheltered harbour free of the open ocean.

A public vote was taken in 1885 with 96 percent of ratepayers voting in favour of accepting a loan to build a breakwater harbour. While the Inner Harbour around Westshore was considered a natural harbour, considerable dredging of the bottom was needed in order to accommodate larger ships. While those ships that could not enter the Inner Harbour unloaded from the roadstead quite safely, the need for a deep water harbour had been highlighted in 1887 by the fatal beaching of the Northumberland and Boojum while unloading goods near Westshore. While work was undertaken after this tragedy, storms in 1894 and 1896 lashed the partially completed breakwater harbour causing considerable damage and forcing the Harbour Board to redirect what little money it had left to repairing the damage. By 1905 a report by Charles Ellison showed that public opinion had swayed towards developing the Inner Harbour as costs continued to spiral upwards at the breakwater with little return being visible.

Photograph by W H Neal of the breakwater port taken from Bluff Hill on 10 February 1899. Glasgow Wharf and the partially completed breakwater running towards Auckland Rock are visible. 1928,Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 77628

One of the proponents of completing a breakwater harbour was F W Marchant. He put forward a plan to build a massive breakwater and harbour at the entrance to the Inner Harbour but later admitted in a report to the Harbour Board that continuing work on the breakwater at Bluff Hill would cost nearly half of the estimated £325,000 for his “Spit” harbour. It was seen as an unnecessary expense to local ratepayers that two separate harbours should be built so close together, and the idea was scrapped.

A plan, presumably by George Nelson, showing his own Inner Harbour plan and F W Marchant’s schemes for the breakwater and “Spit” harbour with costs included. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m65/19

While the breakwater port may have been the most feasible plan from an economic perspective, the fate of it was determined by regional poll on 9 February 1909, with a slim majority voting against accepting a new loan to complete the work. Within a month of this rejection an entirely new plan was submitted by George Nelson which utilised only the Inner Harbour. This plan envisaged dredging over 1.5 million yards of material from the area and using it to fill in the North and South Ponds upon which factories, sheds and rail yards would be built to service the port. Land belonging to the Harbour Board that was once swamp could be reclaimed and sold to finance the work. Although this bold new concept appeared favourable, the Harbour Board approached it with caution and it was not long before a furious debate ensued.
George Nelson’s original plan for the development of the Inner Harbour.
Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m65/19

The opposition to this plan was led by engineers J P Maxwell, Cyrus Williams and J B Mason of Sydney who had been contracted in by the Harbour Board to assess the feasibility of plans. Leaflets exposing Nelson’s plan as ill-conceived and misleading were circulated throughout the region. The engineers claimed that Nelson had manipulated data previously collected, claiming that the Inner Harbour bottom was soft ground that could be easily dredged when in reality it was very hard rock that would cost three times as estimated by Nelson to move. This exposed Nelson to harsh criticism as a developer who had not only cherry-picked data, but stolen a fellow engineers work.


The leaflet which exposed George Nelson’s Inner Harbour plans to harsh criticism. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m73/38

In addition, Nelson had paid lip-service to the breakwater in his plan by admitting that it had stopped shingle from accumulating in the Inner Harbour, but this appeared to be overstated. Maxwell, Williams and Mason commented that Nelson’s plan of “the construction of a navigable channel through a perpetual sand drift in the open ocean would be so difficult that a mere statement to make one scarcely demands the opinion that the idea is not a reasonable one”. A modified version of Nelson’s plan was made by Australian engineers T W Keele and E A Cullen in 1912, but after finding that they had been supplied with false information, changed their views on the viability of the Inner Harbour.
Although the rejection of these plans was a major setback for the Inner Harbour faction of Napier, there continued to be ongoing debate over which type of port was best suited for shipping purposes. Another poll in 1920 swayed in favour of further loans for development of the Inner Harbour, while the Harbour Board continued to retain a majority of Inner Harbour planners in its seats. Friends and enemies were said to be made throughout the town depending on an individual’s preference for one plan or another.


Before and after: a map contrasting the Inner Harbour’s initial underwater reach in 1865 and the final shape it took after the 1931 Earthquake and years of reclamation work. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 56/28 and m2002/8/9

However, where the citizens and Harbour Board could not decide, Mother Nature intervened decisively. The February 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake raised the bed of the Inner Harbour to a point where draining and reclaiming the land was a more feasible option than dredging the hard bottom and turning it into a port. The Inner Harbour idea was finally shelved and construction of the breakwater port continued apace. The area that was once such a contentious issue for the people of Napier is now home to flocks of grazing sheep and a more modern form of transport, the aeroplane.

Evan Greensides
Collection Assistant
January 2013

one of much excitement

At the beginning of June, HBMAG Team Leader’s had a walkthrough of the museum site with the opportunity to look at the progress of the redevelopment.  The last time we visited was in December 2012 when the new wing was at basement level.  This part of the building has progressed significantly – the basement, ground floor and first floors are now in place, with the first floor roof due to be completed shortly.

The HBMAG new wing and main entrance

It was a weird feeling wandering around the building, but one of much excitement.  Some spaces the Bestall Gallery and Century Foyer were familiar, although lacking their usual life.  I remembered back to when we were open, abuzz with visitors and the galleries full of the collections we know so well.  Planning is already well under way for the collection and visitors to return, but for the first time I got a real sense of what the spaces were going to be like.

The Bestall Gallery undergoing earthquake strengthening

In the new wing’s main foyer and entrance on the ground floor I could now imagine staff standing at the reception desk, facing toward Tennyson Street welcoming visitors to the building.  As I stood where the desk would be, I thought to myself that it may be challenge to remain focused with this fabulous new vista looking out towards the Soundshell, the Dome, and glimpses of Hawke Bay’s iridescent blue water beyond.

Views from the first floor balcony gallery

We visited the new education suite, located just off the foyer. I tried hard to imagine the walls that would contain the two teaching spaces.  Students visiting the Museum will have some of the best spaces in the new building with full height windows framing beautiful views on to Marine Parade. I could hear the chatter of children’s voices as they excitedly sat waiting for their teachers and for lessons to begin.

I couldn’t wait to see the first floor galleries.  We had to go outside the building footprint and ascend on steps as the internal stairwells were not yet competed. I carefully held the hand rail and make my way up to the floor above.  What occurred to me when I stood on the Balcony Gallery was what a fabulous space this was going to be for our visitors.  I walked into the two large galleries on this floor imagining the fine art collection surrounding me; visitors wandering around the space delighting in the paintings displayed on the walls.

 Opus architect Richard Daniels points out the new vista on to Marine Parade

As I walked out of the main galleries I headed towards the stairwell on the Marine Parade side of the building.  The stairwells will be one of the most striking features of the new building – large cases, nine by three metres will span the height of the three floors and will be dedicated to displaying the HBMT’s collection.  For some reason I imagined a large, glorious kimono being hung in front of me in the top section of the case. As I approached the balcony overlooking the case, the lighting drew my eyes to the treasures below, enticing me to go down the stairwells and explore further.

 The stairwell cases – looking up from the basement floor

We made our way downstairs to where the new 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake exhibition will be located – it was very dark with only a string of light bulbs draped across the space. We asked the builders to turn the lights on; once they did the gallery felt bigger than it did on the plans.  Some of the team got out their measuring tapes to check dimensions now we could get a feel for this space. It felt contained and the ceilings are quite low.  This was going to be a challenging  space to work with – not unlike the subject matter destined for this gallery, however I know we would persevere and that visitors that see this exhibition will take away their own understanding of the significance of this event to Hawke’s Bay.

The earthquake exhibition space

We continued our tour behind the scenes, past ceilings interlaced with large aluminium air conditioning vents, electrical and data wires trailing from place to place looking for their end outlet, offices walls in varying stages of completion.  I imagine what it will be like as staff populate these spaces once again, busily getting on with their tasks – tables with collection objects being readied for display; then onto the Collection store with rows of treasures in neatly allocated shelving patiently waiting for their turn; other staff work at desks, papers piled high, coloured folders and to-do lists on whiteboards.  It’s easy to imagine that when I follow this route to my new office on the Century Theatre mezzanine floor the enticing smell of coffee and fresh baking in our new café will be hard to resist.

The Design Team studio and office space

There is so much to do before I will make it up to that new office, many more months of planning but, it is exciting dreaming about the day the museum will be open again.  I can’t wait to see all the galleries come to life and the collection once again taking centre stage.  I am looking forward to welcoming back our visitors and being extremely proud of our fabulous new building and all the new stories we will have to share.

Pam Joyce
Marketing Team Leader
July 2012