Museum school trips forever memorable

At MTG we deliver education programmes on all sorts of interesting subjects.  Just in the past few weeks I have taught about places and events of significance to us here in Hawke’s Bay, about culture and identity and about endangered and extinct animals. This is in addition to our popular ongoing programmes: Treasures of MTG, Living History!, and our Quake 1931 programme, a perennial favourite.

As a school pupil I loved the visits outside the classroom my intermediate school teacher, Patrick Sheehan, now deceased, took us on as part of our inquiry learning. We went to the cruise ship Rangitane, the Auckland Post office, the Auckland Museum, to rest homes to deliver chocolates to the elderly (we even won the crossword prize in a local newspaper which gave us the money to buy the chocolates –  I always thought that must have been rigged)! I vividly remember asking dozens of questions, and on our visit to the Rangitane being given a flash ice cream sundae in the dining room of the cruise ship, all indelible memories.

The lasting impact of these experiences has always given me a great faith in this type of learning.  As a young teacher I was so enthusiastic to get my class to the Auckland Museum I arrived an hour before opening! The class didn’t mind tumbling horizontally down the hills surrounding the Museum while I apologized to the understanding parents for getting the time wrong!

Now as a museum educator myself I love to read the letters and quirky drawings we receive from children who have attended one of our programmes. They can be full of superlatives and personal compliments. Here are a couple of recent letters I particularly enjoyed.

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From a teenage visitor:  “As they say first impressions count and mine of yours was that you were polite, cheerful and happy doing what you do. That you didn’t wake up in the morning because you have to get to work you get up because you look forward to broadening peoples perspectives on the wider community and that you want to teach others so that they are aware that they have a way to make a difference in this world and that is what you did to the girls that passed through your doors.”

From a younger student: “ I truly enjoyed doing all the activities, and looking at the exhibits, as it was my first time at this Museum.” Her drawing of making a badge to take home is above. The parent is the headless one!

Gaynor Comley
MTG Educator
March 2014

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Working my way to the top

At this moment I am sitting in a curatorial office, a place not accessible by the public, working on not only this blog but work that will be featured in the Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa exhibition by Migoto Eria. I am a volunteer student from Hukarere Girl’s College learning the ropes of being an exhibition curator.

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Once a week I spend the afternoon at MTG, working with Migoto and learning about the different aspects of a job as a curator. In the few weeks I have been volunteering at MTG I have gained a better understanding of the importance of artifact placement in an exhibition or the amount of care that is needed when handling these precious taonga.

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To succeed in a career as a curator you must have a sharp eye for detail and be able to see things from another’s perspective, skills I only hope to improve while working with Migoto. However there is a lot of work that is not seen by the public, such as the researching, planning, meetings, graphs and charts behind the artifact you see in the display cabinets; if only you could see the photos, papers and sticky notes scattered around Migoto’s desk.

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In my short time here I have seen how passionate these people are about their work, from Migoto and her fellow curators, to the design team who make so much of these exhibitions possible even the friendly people who welcome you as soon as you walk through the doors.

I would advise young people who are interested in a career path as a curator or museum worker to come down at check what’s happening at MTG, everyday I’m gaining experience and improving my skills that will help me in the future, I’m working my way to the top.

Maia Te Koha
Student volunteer at MTG
December 2013

carlyle kindergarten visits museum site

It was an overcast Monday morning in August when a bunch of eleven children from Carlyle Kindergarten excitedly emptied from their taxi van to see the building of the new Museum, a place they would be visiting when they got to school next year.

Derek, in his high visibility jacket, was the Gemco building site representative and our tour guide. He showed the children the different parts of the building from the safety of the perimeter.

Outside the Louis Hay wing of the building I showed the group some old photographs of the building taken soon after it was built in 1937. We found out about the changes being made to bring back the Louis Hay part of the building to its original design. Next we looked into the distance at the old Council Chambers, now in its new site behind Te Pania hotel. The building looks as if it had never been elsewhere. Derek told us how that building had been sawn in half and moved in the middle of the night. As we moved along Herschell Street Derek talked about having to strengthen one of the walls so that an earthquake would not make it fall down, something that they hadn’t expected to have to do.

We walked around the corner to where the main entrance to the Museum would be and saw interested things like scaffolding, rubbish chutes, and temporary staircases. The workers were stopping for morning tea so suddenly there were lots of people descending the stairs. Derek said there were at least one hundred people working on the site. He said the building was costing $18 million dollars and would be ready in about a year, by which time many of the children in the group would be at school. I said I would see them if they came to see the new Museum and showed them where the new Education classrooms were.

It was time for the maxi taxi to pick up everyone, thank Derek and wave goodbye. I think some little ones would sleep soundly that night dreaming of their visit to the new Museum!

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