museums of southland

In a Southland Times article dated March 30th 2019, Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks proposes a distributed museum model he refers to as “Museums of Southland”. Hicks questions the current model which sees the story of Southland being centralised at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery located in Queen’s Park in Invercargill city. Given that there are over 40 museums in Southland, most of which are “micro”, it is understandable to suggest that the stories of Southland could be coordinated and distributed across a myriad of local museums where differing communities come together to tell their own stories in their own ways. Hicks states “I would say a Museums of Southland model is the way of the future. I envisage it would deliver space and resources to ensure stories are told locally, and be backed by a regionally resourced storage facility to support museums across the province where and when needed.”[1] Hick’s refers to the benefits of a more collaborative model where cooperation between museums could represent a richer representation of Southland’s stories. He rightly asserts the success of the Southland Regional Heritage Committee which is made up the three Southland local authorities affirming “It gets stuff done and, in my view, gets the big picture of the needs and opportunities that heritage presents across the region.”[2]

Collaboration among the district’s museums to see the formation of a Museums of Southland model has the potential to project a more authentic version of Southland’s histories and peoples. Hicks seems to propose, in summary, there is no singular story that should be prioritised and interpreted by the staff of a centralised institution that is relatively distant from the multitude of micro museums around the district. A distributed network of museums that maintain their autonomy in form, purpose and function, but who are connected by the shared ethos of sharing the stories of Southland could be supported via the Southland Regional Heritage Committee. The DIY Museum represents a similar model in that its projects are not centralised within a singular location or institution. The benefit of the ability to pop-up in a diversity of locations and engage a variety of communities means the museum becomes more embedded as an experience or encounter rather than a singular institution/place sanctioned with the authority to tell the community’s stories on their behalf.  

[1] Hicks, Tracey. “Collaboration could better tell our story.” In The Southland Times, Opinion, Saturday March 30th, 2019.

[2] Ibid.