In early 2009, I embarked on a three-month internship at Tairāwhiti Museum in Gisborne, offered through National Services Te Paerangi’s Museum Graduate Internship Programme. The project on offer was to re-home the museum’s hanging textiles collection, and to develop a concept for an exhibition of the textiles. This was a very appealing prospect for an aspiring Collection Manager fresh out of university. And the possibility of spending time at the beach after work every day did nothing to dissuade!
A new home for the clothing collection
Under the guidance of Collections Manager Ann Milton-Tee, I physically re-homed Tairāwhiti Museum’s hanging clothing collection according to current museum practice, and also digitised and documented the collection using the Vernon database. It was such a privilege to be able to work closely with the collection, and see some wonderful treasures emerge from their hiding places. I got a sense of some of the characters of Gisborne’s past through their clothing and contributions to the museum and they began to feel like old friends!
With the encouragement and support of staff at Tairāwhiti Museum, the exhibition concept development aspect of the project eventually took the form of an online exhibition Dresses for Special Occasions. This was above and beyond my expectations of the internship and I was delighted with the final result.
It’s all about the learning
At the time of my internship, the museum was in the throes of finalising, installing and opening Watersheds, an exhibition devoted to the history of the Tairāwhiti region. The museum also underwent a change of leadership, with David Butts replacing Monty Soutar as Director. Being able to observe and participate in the hard work that went into the build up to the opening of Watersheds, as well as encountering a significant staffing change was an excellent learning experience.
The internship was a wonderful opportunity in that it allowed me to develop vital skills in handling and storing museum collections, as well as providing an insight into the reality of working in a regional museum.
Article written by Tamara Patten. Tamara completed her Graduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies in 2008. Currently Tamara is working for National Services Te Paerangi as Communications Officer.