Autumn exhibition changeover: the final week

The final week of the changeover process saw the three exhibition spaces completed and ready for the public to enjoy. Over the course of the week the install team at MTG have been busy installing the last of the large scale works in the exhibitions. The graphic design team had the task of producing exhibition labels and banners, which were installed into the spaces. A lighting specialist made sure the lights were perfected and each object was lit to conservation standards. Decorative gold leaf sheets were applied to an entire wall in one of the shows and visitor books were stationed in the galleries. This week was about the finishing touches, all in preparation for the opening day on Saturday 29 March.

Here is a sneak preview of the autumn suite of exhibitions and the new additions to the spaces this week. The exhibitions run until 24 August 2014, so make sure you come along and see them for yourself.

 

_DSC0105 _DSC0076A Bronwynne Cornish ceramic from the exhibition Mudlark.

_DSC0081Gold leaf and lighting creates a ethereal ambiance.

_DSC0083Standing figures by Bronwynne Cornish stand guard.

_DSC0016The visitor’s book in Katy Wallace’s exhibition Transmogrifier Machine is ready for guests.

_DSC0093Light shades made from found objects by Katy Wallace in the Transmogrifier Machine.

_DSC0095Unique furniture designs by Katy Wallace in the Transmogrifier Machine.

Check out our website to find out more about the autumn suite of exhibitions and upcoming floor talks by Bronwynne Cornish and Katy Wallace. These talks will be a great opportunity to meet the artists and learn more about their process and the ideas behind their work.

http://www.mtghawkesbay.com/whats-on/upcoming-exhibitions/

Sarah Powell
Collection Assistant-Photography
March 2014

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

In small things not forgotten

My grandfather, Arthur Black, often told stories of growing up in Porangahau; a childhood filled with adventure – the rugged Southern Hawke’s Bay landscape providing him and his five siblings with a glorious freedom to roam the countryside surrounding their farm. Although I have never lived in this part of New Zealand until now, family stories passed down through the generations and etched into my memory have made this place, Hawke’s Bay, feel like my place.

The Black family, Hawke’s Bay, 1930s. My Grandfather is centre back.
Photo courtesy of Heather Tanguay.

I came to Napier to work at the museum as a collection assistant, but for me it is much more than that. I have returned to connect to the place of those who I hold so dearly; to the landscape that nourished their lives and imaginations, as well as their frustrations and hardships. I think the very same motivation that draws me to connect with my family history in Hawke’s Bay underlines why I have chosen to work in museums. The lines that connect us to the past have always fascinated me. Ever since I was little, when I looked at objects I wanted to see so much more than just the physical form. I wanted to know its history, its story, its lineage. Reflecting on all of this, it makes sense that I have a job where I am surrounded by objects!

British potter Edmund de Waal is clearly also fascinated by the stories that objects can tell if you listen hard enough. His intriguing family history is charted through the movement of a collection of netsuke in his memoir The Hare with the Amber Eyes. One excerpt has always resonated with me and, much more poetically than I, articulates the potential power of objects:

 I want to know what the relationship has been between this…object…and where it has been. I want to be able to reach to the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to walk into each room where this object lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the wall, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt about it and thought about it—if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.

As dramatic and illustrious as de Waal’s family history is, even the most humble object has a story that deserves to be told.

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection, collection of  Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection,
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/18

A netsuke was used traditionally by Japanese as a way of tying valuables such as a purse or a tobacco pouch to their kimono sash. This intricately carved Japanese octopus netsuke was collected by Greacen Black (no relation) on one of his many travels and donated to the museum in 1937. Can you think of an object which has a rich story behind it? Are there any objects within the museum’s collection which are connected to your personal family history? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Nina Finigan
Collection Assistant
February 2014

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

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.

IMG_1010

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.

IMG_1011

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

Raising a glass with Avis Higgs

Saturday 21 September 2013 is a significant date in the history of the museum, marking our renaissance as MTG Hawke’s Bay and the opening of our redeveloped building and exciting new exhibition spaces. This special day is also one that we share with Avis Higgs, one of Australasia’s most renowned textile designers and one that is dear to us here at MTG. Born on 21 September 1918, the Saturday of our opening day was also Avis Higgs’ 95th birthday.

We were thrilled that Avis was able to join us at our preview event on the Friday night and share in the re-opening of the museum where we house a large number of her designs, fabric samples, garments and paintings. These wonderful items have found a home here at the museum since the touring exhibition Avis Higgs: joie de vivre, curated by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins in 2000.

Image 1_DLJ and AvisDouglas Lloyd Jenkins and Avis Higgs at the opening of MTG Hawke’s Bay. Image kindly supplied by Linda Tyler, Director of the Centre for Art Studies, University of Auckland.

Avis Higgs was born in Wellington of joint Australian and New Zealand parentage and grew up in a family that shared a passion for art. Her own creativity was developed when Avis enrolled at the Art School of Wellington Technical College in February 1936.

As a young design graduate, Avis secured a full-time position at National Distributors Ltd. in Taranaki Street, Wellington where she undertook lettering and occasional poster design. It was also here that Avis learnt the principles of screen-printing, a technique which would later become important in her design work.

In 1941 Avis was appointed head designer for Silk & Textile Printers Ltd (STP) in Sydney. This company had been looking to hire an Australasian designer that could produce original designs at a time when inspiration from Europe was largely off-limits. During this period Avis Higgs was creating wonderfully innovative textile design inspired by her Sydney environment, including plant and marine life and trips to Bondi beach.

In 1948 Avis headed back home to Wellington and was soon plotting her next adventure in London. To save money Avis took up a position designing cinema advertisements and at night she designed textiles in order to build up her portfolio. Once again, Avis turned to her surroundings for inspiration creating designs based on native plants, flowers, and taonga held at the National Museum.

Avis Higgs arrived in England in July 1951. Despite a downturn in the textile industry at this time, her designs were well received by those who saw them. Unfortunately, Avis Higgs’ career in England was cut short due to a car accident and she returned to New Zealand in 1952.

Throughout the following decades Avis Higgs was an active member of the arts community, widely exhibited and received numerous awards. In 2006 Avis Higgs was awarded the Governor-General’s Art Award for her contribution to New Zealand art and a retrospective of her work was held at the Academy of Fine Arts.

MTG Hawke’s Bay recognises Avis Higgs’ contribution to design history and have represented her work in the exhibition Decorate: Design stories from the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection. This exhibition will feature a printed rayon dress by Avis Higgs and a bag from Laurie Foon’s 2005/6 ‘Black Swan’ summer collection which incorporates Avis Higgs’ ‘Duckpond’ print designed in 1949.

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Dress (detail), c1945, Avis Higgs, (b.1918), gifted by Mrs Avis Higgs, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2004/23/61

Image 3_bag

Handbag, 2005-6, Laurie Foon and Carleen Schollum for Starfish (estab. 1993, closed 2013), textile design by Avis Higgs (b.1918), purchase, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2005/47

Lizzie Wratislav
Curator Design Collections
November 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