Judith's on-the-road diary - June 2013 

Judith Taylor

Making collections secure; building from the basics

A dramatic and intensive hands-on disaster salvage workshop was held near Blenheim on 15 and 16 May. Marlborough District Museums requested the workshop and worked with National Services Te Paerangi, Marlborough District Council, and the RNZAF Base Woodbourne, to prepare and facilitate the workshop for area museums and libraries. Twenty representatives from Marlborough and Nelson worked together over 2 days, training and practising methods for salvaging collection materials in the event of earthquake, fire or flood. Luckily the weather was clear and warm because the workshop was held outside some distance from the base.

Container fire Preparing for the salvage exercise

In conjunction with the RNZAF Fire Service, a mock collection storage area was prepared in a shipping container, set on fire, and extinguished with water. The group was divided into three teams, which developed systems and rotated through the roles of salvage, inventory, and assessment of damaged material over the 2 days. Steve Austin of Marlborough Museum said that ‘this kind of training in Marlborough is necessary as the location has inherent risks, including the Alpine Fault line and extreme fire risks in summer’.

Conservator Lynn Campbell presented the workshop. Lynn has many years experience in planning, disaster response, and retrieval, and was a founding member of the Canterbury Disaster Salvage Team. Lynn recently received a Getty Conservation Institute Scholarship. She spent 3 months based at the GettyCenter in Los Angeles researching experiences in disaster response, salvage, and new preventive measures, with a particular focus on small museums. She shared this valuable information along with other experiences of retrieval in Canterbury.

The workshop reinforced the importance of cultural and response organisations working collaboratively, being well prepared, and also having the basics completed, such as an up-to-date catalogue with the location and identification of all artefacts.

Burnt items Salvaged items 

As a result of the workshop, a disaster response group for Marlborough and Nelson museums and libraries will be formed. If you were unable to attend the workshop but would like to be involved, please contact Steve Austin by email on steve.austin@marlboroughmuseum.org.nz.

If you would like more information about risk assessing for your area, emergency planning and response procedures, or holding a workshop or forming a team, please contact National Services Te Paerangi.

It takes time: Museum building progress in Canterbury

Following on from the Mid Canterbury Museums Regional Meeting, we visited the site of the new museum and art gallery building in Ashburton. After many delays and lengthy periods of protest and debate since 2007, the building is steadily rising from the ground. The Ashburton District Council has just received a Lotteries Environment and Heritage grant of $700,000 for the facility, which will bring the art gallery, museum, genealogical research, and council and community archives together into an integrated facility. Around $500,000 of the grant has been tagged to go towards the climate control system in the new facility. Michael Hanrahan, Director at the Museum, said ‘It’s nice to see the recent progress after a rocky start over the last few years, and I am looking forward to the building’s completion early next year.’ Meanwhile, the Ashburton townscape is changing rapidly as many older buildings are declared unsafe and are demolished.

New Ashburton museum building Philip Howe, Director, South Canterbury Museum; Chloe Searle, Curator, North Otago Museum; Warwick Smith, Director, Forrester Gallery; and Michael Hanrahan, Director, Ashburton Museum inspecting the new museum building in Ashburton. 

Also in Canterbury, Geraldine Museum, run entirely by a voluntary committee, is adding a whole new wing with an education room, additional storage area, and more display space. Community and voluntary input into the project has been significant. The development plan was started 5 years ago and the team has kept steadily working to achieve its goals and overcome various hurdles. Volunteers at the museum have clear roles that fit their strengths and regular hours of work. This project is a real testament to sustained, positive leadership and strong volunteer and community support.

Geraldine Museum Geraldine’s new museum extension and volunteers on site 

A reliable and sound building enveloped around a museum collection to protect it from moisture and sun will always be the most basic of preservation strategies, and applies to all objects, even large historic vehicles and machines. Several Expert Knowledge Exchanges have been recently completed to assist museums in achieving this following the effects of the Canterbury earthquakes.

Methven Historical Society is still considering its options for the future after losing its historic building in the Canterbury earthquakes. It has commissioned an independent report through the Expert Knowledge Exchange programme.

In Greymouth, the Left Bank Gallery has been occupying a pop-up space in a leased shop while the future of its historic bank building is evaluated. The good news is that it looks as though the gallery will be able to move back to its building soon. The committee has been using the uncertainty of the last months to rethink future options and come up with a sustainable direction. National Services Te Paerangi supported a report to look at the short- and long-term options for the gallery. The completed report was shared with the Greymouth Council, along with another similar report completed for Greymouth’s History House.

The Expert Knowledge Exchange is available to assist any aspect of your museum work – from planning and policy development, to specific aspects of preservation and collection care. If you have a project or an issue that requires some subsidised additional expert advice, please make contact with us. You may have an expert in your community who can work with you through this programme.

Find out more about the Expert Knowledge Exchange

Judith Taylor