Museum helping with causeway

A planned new report may shed further light on the best ways of protecting the remnants of a historic manuka causeway unearthed during construction of Dunedin's Wall Street retail mall.

Ideas involving possible displays at the mall are likely to be included in the report, which is being developed in association with Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Concern has recently been voiced that the Dunedin City Council could face a $340,000 bill for preserving the manuka remnants.

Those involved in the project say it is money well spent and the find, in 2008, was of national significance.

About $200,000 is being spent on specialist measures to protect the saturated manuka wood.

Council staff say an earlier plan to display some of the causeway's remains under a glass floor inside the Wall Street mall would require the installation of a full temperature and humidity-control system to prevent deterioration, something likely to cost another $140,000.

Museum board member and city councillor John Bezett recently highlighted the issues, including the substantial mall display costs, at a recent settlers museum board meeting.

He suggested a report from museum management could shed light on how to preserve the historic manuka materials for the long term and provide a linked display in the mall.

One board member suggested an electronic ''virtual reality'' tour of the former walkway was among the possibilities for a display at the mall.

Museum organisers are planning a new permanent display, ''The Ghosts of Wall Street'', at the museum, focusing on the archaeological excavation there and highlighting the manuka walkway discovery. This display is expected to open about August.

As well as some of the manuka wood, the exhibition will include other artefacts, including old boots, marbles and a conch shell, also recovered from the same area as the causeway.

Board chairwoman Dr Dorothy Page said significant costs would be involved in providing protective climate-control so that some of the manuka material could be displayed at Wall Street.

In an interview, Dr Page said artefacts in the museum were already protected by a climate-control system, and the museum's staff had relevant expertise in display possibilities.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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