Archives access on hold for year

Access to the records of some of Otago and Southland's earliest European settlers will be off-limits to the public for at least the next year as Dunedin's Toitu Otago Settlers Museum focuses on clearing a backlog of items in its collection.

Public access to the physical archives at Toitu will be temporarily restricted as staff focus on processing the backlog.

The archives hold material related to the early history of European settlement in Otago and Southland, including photographs, ship diaries, personal letters, newspapers and bibles.

Earlier this month, it was announced all new exhibitions at the award-winning museum would be put on hold for at least a year.

Dunedin City Council Ara Toi group manager Nick Dixon said the temporary closure was a result of the museum's archivist needing to devote her time to the issues with the collections.

Once the collection issue had been addressed, the information available in the archive would be much more accessible and comprehensive, Mr Dixon said.

Access to the digital records, which comprised about 10% of the collection, would continue, though it might be located in another area of the museum, he said.

All public bookings already made would be honoured and the work on the collections would start in about a month.

Mr Dixon also confirmed collections manager Greg Cairns had resigned and would finish in the role at the end of the month. He would be replaced.

It is the third resignation of a senior staff member at the museum this year.

There were no staff or budget cuts associated with the focus on the collections, he said.

''This isn't a downsizing in any way or a reaction to budget cuts; this is just part of our professional practice focusing on our collection management.''

Otago Settlers Association president Susan Schweigman said the closure was disappointing but would be worth it if the service was enhanced.

Association members had free access to the archives and were entitled to a free hour with the museum's archivist each year, Mrs Schweigman said.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

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