Reopened museum displays to have four themes

Waitaki District Council projects and assets officer Grant Rhodes (centre) shows (from left) council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen, Cr Bill Kingan and Cr Craig Dawson around the closed North Otago Museum this week. Photo: Sonya Martinez
Waitaki District Council projects and assets officer Grant Rhodes (centre) shows (from left) council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen, Cr Bill Kingan and Cr Craig Dawson around the closed North Otago Museum this week. Photo: Sonya Martinez
When the North Otago Museum reopens it will have ''multi-faceted'' displays, after the Waitaki District Council approved $420,000 to develop four themes for the main exhibition space before an anticipated visit from Unesco officials later this year.

A display featuring the Waitaki district's geology; the taoka of the district, including the circa 14th-century adzes of the museum's Willets collection; the story of Ngai Tahu, including Te Huru Manu; and European arrival were given the go-ahead by councillors this week, after Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher successfully argued against a proposal to focus on just the theme relating to the council-led bid to become Australasia's first Unesco Global Geopark.

Mr Kircher said the public had waited a long time for the museum to reopen and including just one theme in the main display area of the Thames St museum would not be as ''effective''.

The museum. Photo: Hamish MacLean
The museum. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Despite a warning from Forrester Gallery, Waitaki District Archives and museum director Jane Macknight that there were ''external factors'' that could make completing the work on time difficult, Mr Kircher said the timing of the Unesco geopark evaluators was not yet known.

The May deadline imposed on the museum's staff would be ''aspirational''.

''It's going to be an evolving situation,'' Mr Kircher said. ''We've got a few months.''

Cr Jim Hopkins led the failed bid to focus the reopening on one theme for a lower cost of $180,000, saying he did not think museum staff could do the four proposed themes justice before the Unesco evaluators arrived.

The $420,000 budget for the displays was part of $1.38million approved spending on the council's museum and nearby Forrester Gallery this week.

The council earlier approved a $575,000 budget for remediation and capital works for the Heritage New Zealand category 1 registered Thames St gallery.

And as they approved the museum's display funding, councillors also approved $385,000 worth of capital and deferred maintenance on the building.

Before making the decision, councillors were taken through the museum to see work already under way.

Since April 2016, the museum and Waitaki District Archive have been open to the public through a side door in Steward St, with a limited display space, as plans to amalgamate the museum, archives and gallery at the Forrester Gallery site were afoot.

Mr Kircher said the work done now on the cultural facilities should be seen as the first stage of investing in the buildings.

Cr Hopkins and Guy Percival voted against.

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