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.


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.


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.


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


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 Journey Home

Curating MTG Hawke’s Bay’s inaugural taonga Māori exhibition Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa has been a personal journey.

I returned to Hawke’s Bay for this position after 11 years in Wellington, studying and teaching, then editing Māori children’s publications.

There have been a new set of challenges working on research for my own iwi. It becomes a personal responsibility to ensure tikanga is respected as well as producing an exhibition that is of interest and inspirational. I have re-established relationships with those I’ve known throughout my childhood, with the intention that their stories are told appropriately and with respect.

I’m fortunate that I had previous networks in Hawke’s Bay before I even started. My mother was known for her work in the local community. Growing up here has been an advantage. The hapū we have been researching like to know someone’s grown up here and offered their time for the community.

When I go out into the community to talk about what we’re doing it is important to establish your hapū connections first. Make time to talk and stay for a cup of tea. The whānau and kaumātua have been really supportive of what have been doing with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. They have been on this journey with us.

It’s been a unique process, and I’m glad that MTG management have been really understanding in allowing Kaitiaki Taonga Māori Tryphena Cracknell, Designer Desna Whaanga-Schollum and myself to maintain these relationships appropriately.

The concept of this exhibition came about quite organically and was one of three proposed concepts. Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa seemed relevant for an opening taonga show and an appropriate opening introduction since the previous taonga exhibition Ngā Tukemata had stood for 22 years. Ūkaipō will be renewed after 12 months.

Migoto Eria_DSC5251

MTG Hawke’s Bay Curator Taonga Māori Migoto Eria, holds a pou tokomanawa from Tutira. This pou affiliates to Ngāti Hineuru, Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Tū, Ngāti Kurumōkihi, Ngāti Whakaairi, gifted by Mrs J Archer Absolom, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 75/239

People should expect something different with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. The approach is relevant to current audiences, is inclusive and aims to accommodate wider age groups. Our point of difference in terms of taonga exhibitions is to remind people of their identity, upbringing and homeground. That is what Ūkaipō is, regardless of age or ethnicity.

What we would like is for our visitors to see themselves in this show, whether that be seeing photos of themselves when they were kids, or hearing their voices or the voices of their mokopuna. Rather than just seeing a carving, they will hear the descendants speaking about it.

The Waiohiki pou tokomanawa (interior carved ancestral posts) which were at the entrance of Ngā Tukemata are significant and identifiable by local hapū. These pou are included in Ūkaipō as it is important that these taonga are accessible to the iwi and the community.

There are two other significant pou tokomanawa going on display, one from Ahuriri and another from Tutira. I remember the Tutira pou very well. When I was young my whānau and I would come and mihi to this pou who is our tipuna and represents the descedants of Tutira. The pou was found in Lake Tutira in the late 19th Century by Guthrie Smith, and came into the museum collection in the late 1970’s.

These taonga have significant mana, and it’s been important to work the show around them. They have such a presence and people expect to see them. This is what Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa is about – identity and whakapapa. This exhibition allows access to taonga and whakapapa, showcasing local stories, featuring local tipuna.

Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa opens to the public on September 21.

– Migoto Eria, Curator Taonga Maori

the written word

Our extensive taonga Māori collection dates from the days of the Athenaeum established in 1865 and includes the collections of Donald McLean, G J Black and George Ebbett. Numerous Māori related items also appear in the archive including photographs, manuscripts and collections of maps.

As a curator there are times when you stumble upon major treasure troves. This stumble was more of a casual conversation with archivist Gail Pope who brought my attention to Māori items in the William Colenso collection.

It is important to first understand the significance of the Māori language to William Colenso and his family. He arrived in New Zealand as a missionary from England and understood the importance of learning Māori to his position. Letters to and from local rangatira and other manuscripts show Colenso signed off as Te Koreneho, a transliterised Māori version of his name. Te Koreneho’s household was a Māori speaking household. His wife Elizabeth Colenso and two children, Fanny and Latimer, were all fluent speakers of Māori. Both children spoke only Māori until the ages of 7 and 8. Elizabeth, a teacher, had translated English stories into Māori, two of which, ‘The Little Wanderers’ and ‘Rocky Island’ by Samuel Wilberforce were published by the Bishop Press in Waimate in 1843 and 1844.


Ko ngā Tamariki Haereere Noa 1843 and Te Motu Kowhatu 1844, written by Samuel Wilberforce, translations by Elizabeth Colenso. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 38/208 and 28/207

In terms of publishing Māori material and resources to teach Māori speakers ‘the written word’ Te Koreneho undertook Māori language projects that were turning points in 19th Century development of Māori. This was a crucial time for printing in Māori as Māori people themselves were only beginning to interpret their own language in writing.

Formerly these would have been created to teach Māori to read the Bible – Te Koreneho had translated the complete New Testament into Māori in 1838. However, this work to familiarise Māori with reading and writing in their own language enabled them to do the same with English.

So devoted was Te Koreneho to developing the learning of Māori speakers that he was contracted by the Government to formulate a complete Māori lexicon in seven years for which he was paid a remuneration of £300 a year. A change of government over that time meant serious complications for the progress of this lexicon, for example, the withdrawal of the free postal service had a dramatic impact on his communication with the government. Three and a half years passed and he was notified that a large portion of the lexicon should be in the press. After he replied that this was impossible he was notified that his remuneration would cease to continue until further notice. He continued to work unpaid to the point where he was ordered to provide a ‘sample’ of his approved lexicon. He had only in retaliation to what he perceived as inappropriate treatment and in 1898 had only completed and printed the letter block A.

Mr. Colenso’s Māori-English Lexicon (specimen of); Manuscript. New Zealand. William Colenso (b.1811, d.1899) Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 45/372

Te Koreneho also printed Te A-nui a Wi, Willie’s First English Book in 1872 but only parts one and two of three. The name of this publication can be interpreted as ‘The big A of Wi’ or ‘The alphabet of Wi’. Within the series, the target language is English delivered in Māori. We can interpret from the title that the resource was dedicated to Te Koreneho’s son Wiremu, who much like Te Koreneho’s older children, did not converse in English. We can further allude to the dedication being made to the Māori children of the community, providing an important and unique resource for learning English as a second language.

Willie’s First English Book, Part I; William Colenso (b.1811, d.1899), George Didsbury, Government Printer (est. 1865, closed 1893) Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 4577

It has been a privilege for me to return to my whenua and have the opportunity to work amongst my iwi specifically, the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with our taonga Māori collection and Māori archival material.

Migoto Eria
Curator Taonga Māori
December 2012