While I support the need for Anderson Park to action a strategy that enables them to offer a public service, there is insufficient information provided in the current consultation document to consider an annual increase in the amount specified ($204,197.00). The document states the ICC currently has a service agreement in place which funds the Gallery at $180,803.00 annually. In order for members of the public to make a decision in this matter it would be useful to understand what the provision of service for the Gallery is e.g. one would assume that the Gallery has been funded to care for and provide access to the collection through an annual exhibition programme by maintaining regular opening hours, researching/curating new exhibitions inspired by the stories of the collection etc. Due however to circumstances beyond the control of the Gallery, Anderson Park has not been open for well over two years which has resulted in a reduced level of service to the public.
This time has, I am aware, been spent productively cataloguing the collection as well as seeking opportunities to show the collection in other appropriate venues where possible but has nevertheless reduced the level of service the Gallery has been able to provide. The statement that the level of service remains the same therefore is inaccurate. If the Gallery was able to move from their current location to a facility which enabled them to care for and exhibit works from the collection then this would represent an increase in the level of service. The proposed increase of $204,197.00 appears to be an extraordinary amount in consideration of the limited explanation provided in the consultation document.
The assertion that this increase in funding would make the collection accessible while maintaining free entry is not adequate in explaining how these additional funds will be utilised on an annual basis. Entry to Anderson Park has been free and therefore without access to a budget which makes provision for, or details further research into the potential of generating revenue through an entry fee, this reference does not appear to be useful. It would however be useful to understand what the organisation’s funding plan is e.g. is the increase based on moving the collection and therefore an increase would be necessary in the coming year followed by a return to the usual service level?
There are numerous funders that could provide support to the purpose of moving a collection. Details around what other funding is/has being sought for this purpose would also lend weight to the Gallery’s case in terms of demonstrating that the ratepayer is not relied on as the sole funder of the Gallery. There are also a number of funding options locally and nationally with regard to undertaking the work required at Anderson House. The historic nature of the house and its stated purpose as an art gallery that holds a collection of national significance makes a strong case for funding. A case could also be made to increase the provision of space on site if the APAG board sought to future proof Anderson House for the long-term purpose of an art gallery.
Other information which would serve this proposal could include details of work that has been undertaken to gage the potential of working with other arts/cultural organisations in Invercargill. Given the SDC’s response to the potential funding increase for the Southland Museum and Art Gallery it is evident that there needs to be consideration given to whether the Southland Museum and Art Gallery should continue to serve the wider Southland region or whether the SDC sees the provision for arts, culture and heritage adequately served through their own public museums/galleries. This is relevant to the budgeting process for museums and galleries in the Invercargill community as the ICC may ultimately become responsible for the annual funding of these organisations and therefore should undertake research to ascertain what the provision for funding for arts and culture should be in Invercargill city and look at the best way this can be achieved e.g. the annual plan currently proposes funding for two organisations providing an arts/cultural service to the people of Invercargill both of whom are caring for collections of artwork held in trust for the community. Is there, for example, an opportunity for these two organisations to work together to make better use of resources.
This proposal also does not mention the Southland Regional Development Strategy which presumably, according to the document also intends to undertake work in the area of museum development over the next year. Is the funding proposed therefore reflective of an interim solution for APAG and if so for what duration? Does the funding proposed reflect that this will be an interim service agreement until the proposal for, for example, a purpose built facility is furthered by the strategy committee concerned? In conclusion while I support the need for APAG to action a strategy that enables them to offer a public service, there is not sufficient explanation in the consultation document to support a $204,197.00 annual increase in funding.
Southland Regional Heritage Rate
While I support the need for the Southland Museum & Art Gallery to be resourced to catalogue the collection there is insufficient information provided in the current consultation document to consider an annual increase in the amount specified. For example over what duration will the proposed work be carried out? If the funding is to catalogue the collection then this will be funding for a limited period. There should be a distinction made between cataloguing the collection e.g. providing resourcing over a period of time to employ staff and purchase conservation materials to complete a back-log of work and the ongoing care of the collection. The purpose of cataloguing the collection in terms of future proofing would be to gain a clear picture with regard to relevance to the story of Invercargill and or Southland and the cost of storing and caring for the collection in the long term.
The completion of the cataloguing process would enable the museum to participate in conversations regarding the strategy for collecting practices in the Southland region which would serve to clarify whether the Southland Museum and Art Gallery should continue collecting around the stories of Southland or whether there should be a tighter focus on the stories of Invercargill. Collecting practices if not carefully planned and managed in the short and long term become unsustainable or in other words grow beyond what a city or region can afford to care for and make accessible to the public. There is often also an issue with regard to duplication of collection items (particular in regions that are home to a significant number of museums such as Southland) that can be resolved through the sharing of information and ongoing consultation around collection policies and proposed acquisitions. It is for this reason that it is essential for local authorities to have a clear picture of the collection practices and policies of all organisations it funds.
A cataloguing process of this nature can and should result in the review of the institution’s practices and policies which may facilitate the deaccessioning of materials that are no longer relevant to the direction of the organisation. While this is not a straight forward process, many institutions undertake this work on a regular basis. A collection’s value is increasingly measured by the engagement it engenders, in other words museums are increasingly focusing on how collections can serve communities and how these benefits can be measured and articulated. This represents, for example, a change from the culture of storing items long term that may never be encountered in any way by members of the community. As museums globally begin to acknowledge that that they will be unable to sustain a collecting culture that continues to indiscriminately or within the scope of a broad collection policy, commit to storing items long-term, a radical re-think of how museums can more effectively and sustainably engage communities with collections is taking place.
In conclusion while I support an increase of the Southland Regional Heritage Rate to match what the SDC is currently asking, I suggest that a bigger picture approach is considered with regard to the ongoing operational funding needs of the non-profit arts and cultural institutions/organisations in Invercargill. This conversation should involve the organisations concerned, the ICC, local and national funders, representatives from the Southland Regional Development Strategy and stakeholders. The ICC could take the lead in facilitating a way forward for arts, culture and heritage in Invercargill city as although these organisations should demonstrate a commitment to generating revenue, if they can clearly show that they provide a service of value to the Invercargill community then the Council needs to take an active role in both the funding and oversight of these organisations both now and in the future.