Putting the blue whale skeleton back on display, improving visitor facilities, protecting the heritage buildings, and new prehistoric animal exhibits are just some of the ideas voiced by Cantabrians having their say on the proposed redevelopment of the Museum.
Museum Director Anthony Wright says he is delighted with the number of people who have taken time to give feedback and the mostly positive comments that have emerged from the consultation so far.
The Museum estimates that it has reached more than 400,000 people through face-to-face meetings, advertising, social media and other channels. Its engagement website has been visited more than 11,000 times by more than 2,000 users, 160 comments have been left on the Ideas Wall and 204 people have completed the survey.
Mr Wright says the public feedback demonstrates a strong community connection and support for the 150-year-old Museum. More than 60% of the people who completed the survey visited the Museum three or more times a year, 25% once or twice and 13% less than once a year.
“Many people have told us how much they love The Christchurch Street, Discovery and temporary exhibitions such as the popular Ancient New Zealand: Squawkzilla and the Giants, currently on display, and Air New Zealand 75 Years,” says Mr Wright.
“Other ideas include a greater emphasis on MÄori, Pasifika and multicultural exhibits. We’re really pleased that people want to see the return of our much-loved blue whale skeleton, as we are planning to bring it back on display after more than 25 years.”
Mr Wright says that of the negative comments received, the majority are constructive. “We are listening to all the feedback and it will be taken into account in shaping the proposed redevelopment.”
One of the most common topics that people raised is the representation of MÄori in the Museum.
“We have made a commitment to NgÄi TÅ«Ähuriri that we will work together in developing our future MÄori exhibits and that iwi will lead and inform how they tell their stories, relate their history and represent past and current MÄori culture,” says Mr Wright.
The $195 million redevelopment project is needed to protect the Museum’s heritage buildings and the 2.3 million objects in the collection, and to bring the interior up to the standards expected of a fit-for-purpose twenty-first century museum.
Design options for the redevelopment will be shared with the public in the near future. Ideas under consideration would mean more of the Museum’s collection could be displayed, popular exhibits such as the blue whale skeleton could return and more storage would be created on the site. Currently, only 1% of the collection can be displayed at any one time and some of the items have never been on public view.
The Museum has met with a number of people who have previously expressed an interest in the Museum’s future.
“It’s really important that we listen to what people have to say about the future of the Museum. We will continue to meet with these groups, seek their feedback and ensure they are involved throughout the process until we lodge a resource consent later this year,” says Mr Wright.
Dame Anna Crighton, Chair of the Christchurch Heritage Charitable Trust, says the Museum Board has been extremely proactive in sharing its redevelopment plans and gaining feedback from the wider community.
“I was happy to be invited to participate in this process and share my views. With an open mind, I attended a presentation which I found to be reassuring and which did not repeat the mistakes of the past.
“Not only will the listed heritage buildings be treated with respect and regarded as part of the Canterbury Museum collection, but architectural features will be highlighted and past violations of heritage fabric rectified. I now look forward to providing input into the initial design options.”
Professor Chris Kissling, Chair of Christchurch Civic Trust, says, “The Civic Trust appreciates being consulted. We do not wish differences of the past to inhibit achieving workable solutions for the future. The current site imposes considerable constraints, not the least of which are its heritage listed buildings.
“It is a challenge to the professionals involved to resolve conflicting visions in an acceptable way that can retain public support and be sustainable in the long-term. We agree that ignoring the needs of the museum is untenable as is any conversion of the adjacent Robert McDougall Art Gallery away from its original primary purpose,” says Professor Kissling.
Anthony Wright says, “The feedback collected so far will guide the design process. We are committed to transparency, and as we progress our plans there will be more opportunities for people to have their say before any plans are finalised and submitted for resource consent.”
The public is invited to give their feedback and keep informed as the project progresses by going to the front page of the Museum website www.canterburymuseum.com and clicking on the Need for Change tile.