Two-year Project to Preserve Canterbury’s Taonga

Thursday 01 July 2021

Canterbury’s taonga (treasures) will be safer and more accessible thanks to a project aiming to help up to 40 of the region’s heritage organisations improve the care of their collections.

Stoddart Cottage

Stoddart Cottage in Diamond Harbour is one organisation that could benefit from the project.

The Canterbury Museum-led project received $209,033 in the most recent round of funding from Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Te Tahua Whakakaha Capability Fund.

Over the next 2 years the project will assist Canterbury heritage organisations to develop the skills and material they need to improve the care of their collections.

A Collections Care Advisor, to be employed by the Museum, will help the individual organisations assess their object storage and make suggestions for how storage could be improved and access made easier.

An Outreach Coordinator will organise workshops to help the organisations’ volunteers and staff learn the skills they need to carry out the suggested improvements and maintain a high standard of care for their collections in the future.

The Museum will also use its bulk purchasing power to buy museum-standard storage materials, such as acid-free boxes, and supply these to the local organisations as needed.

Canterbury Museum Head of Collections and Research Sarah Murray says the project will have a tangible impact on the preservation of Canterbury’s heritage.

“Our local heritage organisations have indicated that they’d really like more help with collections management, and this project will meet that need. We’re very grateful to the Ministry’s Te Tahua Whakakaha Capability Fund for enabling us to do it.

“These collections are important because they tell local, urban and rural stories that show our place in the world. Together they portray a comprehensive history of Canterbury.”

One local heritage organisation set to benefit from the project is Stoddart Cottage, the oldest colonial building in Diamond Harbour and the birthplace of famed painter Margaret Stoddart.

The Stoddart Cottage Trust cares for a collection of artefacts connected to the Stoddart family, including books, photo albums, documents, wallpaper fragments, household objects and original artworks.

Trust chairperson Paula Smith says some of these objects are not currently stored in ideal conditions.

“Many of the things in our collection have been donated by local families. When we accept something we are very mindful that we are accepting responsibility on behalf of our community to care for these things in perpetuity, so they can be studied and appreciated by the future people.

“We could really do with some support to help us optimise the conditions under which our community treasures are stored or displayed, given our limited space, volunteer capacity and finance.”

The new project builds on the Museum’s existing outreach programme. Since 2018, the Museum has run a number of workshops for staff and volunteers at Canterbury heritage organisations, which covered core museum capabilities including governance and strategic planning, collections management, data management and exhibition planning.

Canterbury is home to approximately 80 heritage organisations including museums, heritage groups, archives and galleries. Volunteers run 82 per cent of these organisations, compared to 63 per cent of museums nationally.

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