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Te Matea ki te Whakahou Need for Change 

The Museum has stood on Rolleston Avenue for 150 years, and most of our buildings are showing their age.

Substandard storage conditions, a lack of exhibition space and poor facilities are just a few of the consequences. Read on to learn why the Museum needs a redevelopment.

Dehumidifiers at work in the basement storage area.

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Taonga at Risk 

We care for over 2.3 million taonga (treasures) on behalf of the people of Waitaha Canterbury, but the deteriorating state of the buildings has put this priceless collection at risk.

Cracks in the walls mean pests can get in. Our basement leaks when it rains heavily. Services like sewage pipes run through storerooms, threatening to leak or burst.

Crucially, most of the taonga are stored in spaces where we can’t adequately control humidity and temperature. Items have already been damaged as a result, and this will only get worse with time.

Our new collection stores will be base isolated to protect the taonga they contain if another earthquake strikes.

Senior Curator Natural History Dr Paul Scofield with the Museum's blue whale skeleton, in storage.

Senior Curator Natural History Dr Paul Scofield with blue whale

More Exhibition Space 

We’re desperately short of exhibition space. At any time, less than 1% of our collection is on display. Some objects have never been seen by the public.

Larger, more flexible exhibition spaces will allow us to showcase more of the collection and bring major touring exhibitions from overseas to Waitaha Canterbury.

One taonga in particular requires a lot of space: our Ōkārito blue whale skeleton, which hung in the Garden Court until 1994. Currently there is nowhere in the Museum large enough to display the whale, but in the new Museum it will take pride of place, suspended from the ceiling in the atrium.

A young visitor in the former 'Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho o Ngā Tīpuna' gallery

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Mana Whenua at the Heart 

The Museum has a long relationship with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the hapū in whose takiwā (region) our buildings sit. We are working closely together to ensure the redevelopment occurs in genuine partnership with tangata whenua, rūnanga and iwi.

The Cultural Narrative gifted to the Museum by Ngāi Tūāhuriri weaves together the cultural values, traditions and history of Ngāi Tūāhuriri. It recognises the rights and guarantees provided under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and respects the mana of the local hapū, iwi and all peoples now resident in this land.

Mana whenua and Ngāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnanga will tell their own stories, in partnership with Museum staff, in a space at the heart of the new Museum called Araiteuru.

Children from Sockburn School engaged in one of the Museum's education programmes.

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Better Facilities 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic we welcomed more than 750,000 people each year, but our current facilities do not provide visitors with a great experience in many places.

We have one small lift, which often breaks down, limited toilets and a small cafe that is difficult to access. Because we have no temperature control in the building, some spaces get unbearably hot and stuffy in our peak summer season. Neurodiverse visitors and visitors with mobility issues struggle to access parts of the Museum.

Each year around 15,000 Canterbury school students participate in Museum-delivered education programmes, but our current education space is cramped and offers limited digital education opportunities. We don't have any spaces that are really suited to holding public talks and other events.

Visitors in the Mountfort Gallery, the oldest of the Museum buildings.

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Celebrating Our Heritage Buildings 

The Museum’s original buildings, designed by Benjamin Mountfort and built in the 1870s, are amongst our greatest taonga but later modifications have hidden some of their beautiful features. The redevelopment will bring to light much of this heritage fabric.

Base isolation beneath the new collection stores is designed to keep our taonga safe even in an earthquake and provide international lenders with the assurances they need to send major exhibitions here.

The Robert McDougall Gallery will be repaired, restored, base-isolated and reopened as part of the new Museum. Art from our collection and works on loan from other institutions will be displayed here in accordance with donor Robert McDougall’s wishes.