Shanghai exhibition still on hold but museum director optimistic

Otago Museum. Photo: ODT files
Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin remains optimistic about long-delayed proposals for the museum to stage a major exhibition in Shanghai, but that show seems unlikely to happen this year.

Dr Griffin was asked at a recent Otago Museum Trust Board meeting if delays in finalising the Chinese show could affect the museum's overall work programme, including exhibitions it planned to run in Dunedin.

Dr Griffin said the museum's overall programmes would run normally, given that much of the preparatory work for the Chinese show had been done, and arrangements had been made for the show to be produced when it was required in Shanghai.

More than 600,000 visitors were attracted to an earlier major Otago Museum show, titled ``Te Ao Maori: Maori Treasures from the Otago Museum'', after it opened at the Shanghai Museum in July 2011.

That was by far the biggest and most complex exhibition staged by the Otago Museum overseas.

Dr Griffin said the Otago Museum had a busy overall programme ahead for this year, and would host ``Permian Monsters'', a big mid-year exhibition on life on Earth before the coming of the dinosaurs.

A major redevelopment of the museum's Discovery World facility would also be completed this year.

Finalising arrangements for the proposed new exhibition, to be staged at another Shanghai museum, the new Shanghai Natural History Museum, had been ``a very long drawn-out process''.

He emphasised that the Otago Museum had ``an excellent relationship with several museums in Shanghai'' and that discussions about the exhibition had begun well before he had taken up his post at the Otago Museum in May 2013.

It was initially hoped that the Dunedin-linked show would be staged in 2014, to coincide with the planned opening of the new natural history museum, which was then under construction.

He later said, in April 2014, that there had been a series of delays, initially because of construction delays in China, in mounting the exhibition, with the proposed title ``Aotearoa: Nga taonga o te taiao New Zealand: The wonders of the natural world''.

Dr Griffin says the Otago Museum remains keen to provide the exhibition and to ensure it meets the Shanghai institution's requirements.

In recent years there had been changes at the Otago Museum and changes at the Shanghai Natural History Museum, and international economic conditions were now less buoyant than they had been some years ago.

But it was positive that talks were continuing, because the Chinese would not continue talking if they no longer wished to pursue the exhibition, he said.

He remained optimistic, but finalising the arrangements was ``something that's beyond my control''.

Gaining ``the appropriate permit'' to send cultural exhibits overseas could take between six months to two years to complete, and, given that reality, he believed it was unlikely that the Otago show would be staged in Shanghai this year.

Finalising the show's arrangements would ultimately ``take as long'' as it required, and he was comfortable for the Chinese museum authorities to work through their requirements, he said.

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