The worldwide community of museums celebrates International Museum Day today – 18 May, 2013.
This year, the theme of the International Museum Day is Museums (memory + creativity) = social change. Our rich heritage, which museums both display and protect, is associated with inventiveness and vitality, both of which have characterized the museum sector in recent years and are museums’ greatest strengths.
ICOM General Director, Julien Anfruns adds: “Reconciling their traditional mission of preservation with cultivation of the creativity necessary for renewal and visitor growth is the evolution that museums are striving for, with the firm conviction that their presence and their actions can change society in a constructive manner.”
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) established International Museum Day in 1977 to increase public awareness of the role of museums in the development of society. Momentum has been rising unabated ever since. In 2012, International Museum Day garnered record‐breaking participation with almost 32,000 museums hosting events in more than 129 countries.
ICOM is partnering with the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme – which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2012 – for International Museum Day 2013. ICOM and Memory of the World, which is dedicated to world documentary heritage, share a common vision of safeguarding heritage for the benefit of society and are joined in their reflection on the potential of digitization for this purpose.
Southern Exposure: the Ellmore-Timms Retrospective is a new exhibition at Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki which illustrates a significant slice of South Taranaki pictorial history. Rodney J. Ellmore and Lester Timms amassed over 100,000 studio sittings between their studios during the 1960’s through to the 1990’s in Hawera, New Zealand. With over 250,000 individual photographic negatives this remains one of the largest un-catalogued photographic collections in New Zealand.
Now Aotea Utanganui has the daunting task of cataloging, cleaning, re-housing and digitizing portions of this vast studio photographic collection. This collection contains everything you would expect photographic studios to produce over time including photos of weddings, sports teams, engagements, commercial material, new-born portraits and community events.
Aotea Utanganui’s District Archivist, Cameron Curd, says that the community play an important part in the exhibition process by contributing important information about the photographs. The current exhibition shows around twenty images from this collection and we are asking the public to help us identify these people.
“You may know something about the people or businesses featured in the photographs, helping to add valuable information to the Ellmore-Timms Collection,” he says. “There are thousands of un-named photographs in the collection and over time we hope to name most of the people photographed – so we would really appreciate any information you can tell us about these people, as this knowledge is important to our collective memory”.
The exhibition season runs from 1 May to 25 July 2013 and is located in the Livingston Baker Archives and Reading Room, Aotea Utanganui, 127 Egmont Street, Patea
“The unveiling of this collection means everyone will be able to experience the many varied subjects and styles of this significant New Zealand photographic collection – a taonga for generations to enjoy” Mr. Curd says.
For the Museum’s April school holiday programme our Events and Educator Officer, Rob Groat, ran two Māori designs workshops. The classes encouraged participants to take a close look at the Museum carvings and Tukutuku panels and create their own designs. The designs were transferred and painted onto wooden panels. Twelve people attended the two workshops, four adults and eight children. Having smaller groups allowed for more time and creativity to be put into the painting of the designs; the second workshop lasted all day due to the enthusiasm of the group.
Aotea Utanganui has a pop up exhibition in the Reading Room commemorating ANZAC Day. This will be left up for a few days so people have plenty of time to come in and look around.
This morning one of our staff, Cath Sheard, spoke at the ANZAC Day service in Waverley; a few people asked for a copy of her talk so here it is:
Good morning. Thank you for asking me to speak today. As some of you will know, in 2010 Tony and I travelled to Italy as I was one of 40 New Zealand artists who had works in the Legato exhibition in Cassino Italy. I received generous support from the RSA which I am thankful for.
I took 4 works over, celebrating 4 men. My father, Patea grocer Mansel Barker, otherwise known as Able Seaman Barker. Jack Robinson who served at El Alamein, was a POW, and battled the effects of the desert on his lungs for the rest of his life. Allan McLeod – father of Margaret Prince – who could have been an All Black, but instead came back from Italy an amputee. Roy Lehndorf, who was killed shortly after getting to Italy, leaving behind a pregnant young wife and an 18 year old sister who, as the post girl, had to deliver the telegram to her mother, knowing full well what would be in it.
In 1944 people listened to the news on the BBC, and watched news reels before the movies. Today, images of war are in our living rooms, and on our cell phones, instantly. At the same time, numbers attending ANZAC services are increasing. I worry that as a society, we glamorise death and celebrate war, rather than remembering life and loss. I think of the beautiful, but also wasteful and unnecessary, sea of flowers when HRH the Princess of Wales died, and other instances since, and know that there is nothing beautiful in a sea of bodies in a field.
Cassino was one of the most intense, difficult and costly battles that New Zealand troops were involved in during the Second World War. New Zealand’s casualties at Cassino from February 1 to April 10, 1944, totalled 1,695; 343 killed, 1211 wounded and 42 prisoners of war. Out of 343 New Zealanders killed in action there were a disproportionate number of 28th (Maori) Battalion. In an early attack on the railway in the town, Maori suffered 130 casualties out of the 200 who set out.
So today I want to talk a little about Cassino and Monte Cassino Abbey.
Founded in 529, the Monastery was destroyed by the Longobards in 577, burnt down by the Saracens in 883, and destroyed by an earthquake in 1349. On February 15, 1944 this place of prayer and study, which had become a shelter for hundreds of defenceless citizens, in only 3 hours was reduced to a heap of rubble. Why? Increasingly, some Allied officers felt it was the abbey—and its presumed use as a German artillery observation point—that prevented the breach of the ‘Gustav Line’ and entry to Rome.
I had done some reading before we got to Cassino and could not understand their reasoning but when you see the Abbey it becomes clear; think of the Beehive perched on top of Mt Egmont, affording 360% views. We now know Germans had an agreement with the monks to not use the Abbey for military purposes.
Cassino town also came under fire many times and was completely destroyed. Allied aircraft dropped 1,400 tons of bombs on Cassino, leaving the town so heaped with rubble that tanks could not operate until bulldozers cleared paths for them. For this sacrifice Cassino, which received the honour of Martyr City for peace, is decorated with a Gold Medal for military valour.
The two sides had been stuck in this region for 9 months and the human toll was huge. At the foot of the rebuilt Abbey Montecassino, underneath the flags of the countries of the world, there is graveyard after graveyard. More than 16,000 World War I soldiers and over 107,000 World War II soldiers from 32 nations are buried here. The cemeteries include the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery which holds 4,265 soldiers. The Italy War Cemetery contains the graves of 975 soldiers and is the only WWII Italian War Cemetery in Italy. The Polish War Cemetery contains the names of more than 1,000 Polish soldiers. It is a truly vast white marble monument that takes up an entire hillside. The inscription reads:
We Polish soldiers,
For our freedom and yours
Have given our souls to God
Our bodies to the soil of Italy
and our hearts to Poland
Who are we missing? Yes, the German soldiers, because their mother’s and father’s cried too. These young men were, like ours, doing what they thought they had to do. They weren’t monstrous mini-Hitlers; they were sons, fiancés, plumbers, farmers, teachers. The German Cemetery at Cassino comprises the graves of 20,027 soldiers.
Someone asked me recently asked me if the war cemeteries are sad. My answer is, mainly, no. I felt personally sad at the incredible loss of life, seeing row after row after row of headstones. But the overarching feeling is one of respect – locals hold these soldiers in high regard, the cemeteries are beautifully cared for and services are held every year commemorating fallen soldiers from all nations. We were fortunate to attend two of these services.
There is also a small RSA memorial stone at Cassino Railway; the locals all know about it and, if they recognise you as Kiwi, take you by the hand and drag you to it, talking the whole way. We got taken there more than once! It’s not as well tended as some, perhaps because there are no headstones associated with it.
The trip had a profound impact on me, and on my art. I have continued to paint the Italian landscape, and to paint works which depict in some way the lives that were touched by WWII. Two of the works which went to Italy have been exhibited here in NZ as well, and newer Italian works have been exhibited in Wellington. Next year, by invitation of the curator, I will have works in Italy for the Legato exhibition which coincides with 70th commemorations.
Bruce Springsteen, in the song War, said “war I despise because it means destruction of innocent lives. War brings tears to thousands of mother’s eyes, when their sons go to fight and lose their lives”. Despising war does not mean lack of respect for lives lost, but it does mean working for peace. Thank you.
April’s family activity day was held on Easter Monday and proved popular with children and adults alike. This event coincided with the Lion’s Easter carnival in Memorial Park. With a total door count of 131 for the day, it was the two butter making sessions at 11 am at 1pm that drew in the crowds, with around 30 or 40 people attending each session. It took about 20 minutes of churning the cream before the butter separated and there were plenty of eager volunteers to turn the handle. Once the butter was made and all the water squeezed out, we all had to try our freshly made butter on some warm hot cross buns! As well as the food, the Easter crafts kept the younger visitors busy all day long.
We run a family event at the start of each month; contact Rob Groat for further information by emailing email@example.com or phone 0800 111 323.
A museum like Aotea Utanganui has a lot of precious items; photographs, shoes, maps, fishing hooks etc. There’s something else that is precious to a small museum, and that’s the volunteers who generously give their time and talent. We have a small but very dedicated band of men who come in most weeks to help with machinery restoration. They help with building storage, shifting lighting, and a dozen other tasks. We also have a volunteer who comes in specifically to work with our book collection, and travels from Wanganui to do so. These men are an invaluable part of our team and we very much appreciate their efforts.
Then there are the more occasional volunteers, who come in to help with specific tasks. Recently members of Carlyle Women’s Institute have been coming in to make calico slip-covers for items of clothing. They arrive, with their sewing machines, and are soon hard at work sewing together the pre-cut pieces. It’s a pleasure to watch really as they’re incredibly efficient. We are so grateful for skills and their support. Thank you, ladies.
The collections belonging to Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki have accumulated over many decades. In many ways the collections outgrew the space, and staff capacity, to look after them fully. With the renovated museum open, and staff working 7 days a week, the backlog of items needing attention is being tackled.
The Collections Assistant, Mrs Luana Paamu, selects an object from the back store room and examines it carefully, recording its general condition and any damage. Mrs Paamu photographs the object for our records, and for insurance purposes. If necessary she builds suitable storage for the object to ensure it is well protected in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake. For instance, a Korowai or feather cloak might be placed on acid-free tissue in a large shallow drawer, but a delicate piece of carved kauri gum could need special foam carved to cradle its shape. All the information about the object is recorded in a database, along with the objects permanent location within the museum.
As tempting as it might sometimes be, staff do not necessarily thoroughly clean an object as it can cause harm and make the object weaker. The before photos below show a herd testing kit, complete with dead spiders and ancient cobwebs, with some of the glass parts jumbled on top of each other.
In the after photos the herd testing kit has been gently cleaned; the spiders and cobwebs are gone but the glass has not been washed. The wooden boxes have been borer treated then re-assembled, and the smaller glass parts wrapped in tissue and stored in a suitable box. The herd testing kit is now ready to be assigned a permanent location in the collection storage areas.