Canterbury Museum

Update from Museum Director: Museum open again

Posted: 14 September 2011

Canterbury Museum reopened to the public on 2 September after being closed since the 22 February earthquake. Director, Anthony Wright, writes:

It is wonderful to be open again, to see locals and visitors returning to the building and to feel life and energy reinhabiting this part of the city. 

The Museum is the only neo-Gothic heritage building in Christchurch that has survived the earthquakes in good condition, largely as a result of extensive earthquake strengthening of the nineteenth century buildings carried out in the 1980s and early 1990s. The majority of damage to the building was non-structural – widespread minor cracking to wall and ceiling finishes – as commonly seen in Christchurch. The repair work in the galleries was completed by the end of August. We are incredibly fortunate that the building has proved to be so resilient.

With regard to the collections, professional display and storage practices have meant we also suffered only minimal damage in this area. Of the more than 12,000 treasures on display to the public, only 188 were damaged across the three major quakes, and they will be conserved and returned to exhibition.

Visitors to the Museum will be relieved to find their old favourites still on display, including Fred & Myrtle’s Paua Shell House, the Christchurch Street, and Ivan Mauger’s Triple Crown Special gold speedway bike. For the kids, the Moa Cave, the dinosaur and the popular Discovery Centre are all intact.

Early visitors have expressed amazement at how familiar and unchanged the place feels.

There are also several new special exhibitions, including Brian Brake: Lens on the world, Hearts for Christchurch, and Hard on the Heels: Capturing the All Blacks.

Originally scheduled to go on display at the Christchurch Art Gallery, Brian Brake: Lens on the world, showcases the work of one of New Zealand’s best known photographers from the 1960s to the 1980s. Brian Brake gained international prominence with his ‘Monsoon’ essay on India, which was seen around the world in Life, Paris Match, Epoca and other picture magazines in 1961. The exhibition features 165 superb photographic reproductions from Te Papa’s permanent collection, and is the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of this famous photographer’s work, spanning his forty-year career. Brian Brake: Lens on the world was developed by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. At Canterbury Museum the exhibition is presented in partnership with the Christchurch Art Gallery and proudly supported by The Press.

In the Museum’s Visitor Lounge the exhibition Hearts for Christchurch features an amazing array of more than 4,000 stitch-craft hearts from around the world. The project is the inspiration of Napier woman, Evie Harris, who started creating and gathering the hearts after the February earthquake. Word got out amongst the international stitch-craft community about the project and soon hearts started arriving from all over New Zealand and the world. Hearts for Christchurch will be on display until 22 February 2012.

For the rugby fans, Hard on the Heels: Capturing the All Blacks, is an exhibition not to be missed. Peter Bush’s powerful photographs are hard-won: the result of chasing the game up and down the field and he describes capturing an All Blacks game as 'a total workout'. The exhibition features over 100 images of great All Blacks moments, games and players over a 60-year period and is drawn from Bush's vast library of photographs. All these images are for sale.

Another New Zealand icon appears at the Canterbury Museum as part of the REAL New Zealand Festival. Eight iconic garments from the World of WearableArt™ collection are currently on display in eight different regions throughout New Zealand, under the exhibition name WOW® Icons on Tour.  The garment on display at Canterbury Museum is Rattle Your Dags by Paula Coulthard and Ursula Dixon, shown against the backdrop of Hawkduns by Grahame Sydney. WOW® Icons on Tour is the precursor to a larger national touring exhibition of garments from the WOW historic garment collection entitled Off the Wall, which will have its national opening at Canterbury Museum in December 2011.

The journey to repair, conserve, remediate and ready the Museum for re-opening was a long haul. The mayhem in the public galleries – let alone back-of-house offices and workrooms – was massive after the February quake. All the galleries had been painstakingly restored to public exhibition standard (for a second time) on Friday 10 June for a projected early July reopening. June 13 put paid to that and the team started again. I’d like to pay a tribute to the resilience and hard work of staff who never wavered in our intense desire to be open once more. We received practical support from colleagues at Air Force Museum, Te Papa, and other New Zealand museums, and have had numerous further offers of assistance from all around the world. Finally a big thank you to the myriad of contractors, professional consultants, and Council and CERA staff who worked with us to achieve the regulatory requirements to reopen a major public building.