Invercargill City Council Long Term Plan 2015/25 Submission (Presentation)
I believe that the Invercargill City Council currently has the opportunity to lead a new approach to arts and culture in the city. On very rare occasions the stars align and reveal the potential of a previously unconsidered direction. In such exceptional circumstances I propose that further consideration be given to advancing conversations with the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Anderson Park and City Gallery to progress a proposal for a purpose-built, multi-disciplinary, arts and cultural facility in the vicinity of Wachner Place & Esk St. Given the Southland Museum & Art Gallery status as a Council Controlled Organization I believe it is essential for Council to adopt a proactive stance in facilitating an inclusive and rigorous explorative process that works alongside the big picture issues impacting Invercargill to determine that measurable value can be determined and communicated effectively to stakeholders. The city’s public cultural institutions are as important as the city’s swimming pool, stadium and library and should receive the same level of council engagement to ensure their productive development. I propose that the way forward is the implementation of a visioning process to ascertain what a new museum in the city could be and do. This vision would form a map of sorts which ensures that the purpose of a museum is a central driving force in its design.
To provide an example of why a museum redevelopment should be driven by its purpose, I will talk a little about museum collections. The protection and preservation of collections is related to a museum’s core value system. However without a clear strategy, collections can becoming a drain on a museum's resources while providing little evident value to members of a community. Collections can occupy a significant proportion of museum buildings and are costly to maintain. Have you ever asked yourself when collecting ends – history is being made every day so what is significant and worthy of preservation and what is not? Think about the potential growth of collections over the next 50 years if there was indiscriminate and ongoing collecting. In the 2012 year museums in New Zealand acquired almost 100,000 new collection items, 96% of which were donated or gifted however well over half of museums have not had their collections valued as heritage assets.
Much of a museum’s collection is never seen, typically around 20% or less is accessible to the public via exhibition and even less online at around 10%.  The reality is that our museums in New Zealand as we know them today are relatively new. Many museums have transitioned through periods of indiscriminate collecting and as a consequence have a back log of cataloging and may have items which are inadequately documented or not documented at all. Given the resources and physical space required to house collections, it should be clear to communities why and how a museum collects. Without a detailed analysis of a museum’s collection and a strategic and focused future direction, any building development can only assume what future space might be required to accommodate a collection.
Museum practices are changing, the expectations of publics are changing and the world has been opened up to allow for greater potential in remote visitation. At this point in time there is an opportunity to reimagine what a city museum could be and do. I have found some examples that I believe may be useful in the respect that they are cultural facilities located in areas with population bases similar to that of Invercargill. So why does population base matter? Well because the reality is that any public facility needs to take into account what their relative communities can afford to expend in terms capital redevelopment, as well as and most importantly, on the ongoing operation of their facilities. Amalgamation of purpose, for example, can provide a consolidation of resources, skills, volunteer energy, and visitation but should also accentuate the unique attributes and needs of the community.
The New Plymouth District Council amalgamated the public library, museum and i-site into the institution which we now know as Puke Ariki. Puke Ariki also has a restaurant, café, retail and capacity for venue hire.
The Porirua City Council amalgamated the Museum and Art Gallery into the purpose built complex, alongside the library, that became Pataka in 1998. Pataka has retail, a café and a number of venues for hire including a performing arts studio.
Te Manawa is a CCO in Palmeston North which reinvented itself as a Museum of Art, Science and History. Te Manawa venues can accommodate functions of up to 200 people.
The Rotorua Bathhouse administered by the Rotorua District Council is a museum, art gallery and historic place and also has a café.
MTG Hawke’s Bay administered by the Napier City Council is a museum, theatre and art gallery. MTG also has a reading/research room.
In closing I will reference an excerpt from the MTGs vision:
“MTG Hawke’s Bay is more than a museum, theatre and art gallery; it is realising its ambition of becoming a centre of thought-leadership through symposiums, conferences, film programmes, talks and debate. Today MTG Hawke’s Bay embodies much of what its forefathers wanted it to be. Its William Colenso’s home of ideas, Leo Bestall’s full museum in the miniature, Augustus Hamilton’s keeper of local taonga, James Munro’s collector of New Zealand applied arts and crafts. And alongside this rich history, MTG Hawke’s Bay is a trend-spotter, adroit at reinvention: responsive, smart-thinking and worldly”
Thank you for listening