Canterbury Earthquake Museum Update

Updated 31/3

Offers of help – We have had many offers of help from around the country.  Please email us and we’ll keep a register of offers for when those on the ground are ready for your support.

The latest from Christchurch is very grim, however, we have not heard of anyone being hurt in museums or galleries there. We have received a number of messages of support, and these are in the ‘Messages for Canterbury’ Discussion Board on our Facebook page here. Please add your own messages, either on our facebook page, or in the comments below, and hopefully our colleagues in Christchurch will be able to access these when their power and communications are restored.

We understand that most of the damage this time is confined to the city and Lyttelton areas. Here is what we have heard about Christchurch institutions so far.

Air Force Museum
Updated 24/2 Message from Director Thérèse Angelo:

Firstly, and most importantly all of the Museum staff and their families are safe and uninjured. As far as we have been able to ascertain, our volunteers are also OK. Some staff have damage to their homes but many live on the west side of Christchurch or in rural locations and have no damage to report at all.

The Museum itself is in good shape with only minor damage such as ceiling tiles down and fluorescent lights falling. A structural survey yesterday has given the buildings the green light to re-open when we wish. I understand we still have all services to the site but this may change over the next couple of days.

However, given the significant damage to local infrastructure, water, sewer and roading problems, along with petrol shortages, the Museum will remain closed until Monday at least. This also gives staff time to try and start processing the enormity of what has happened to Christchurch. Some staff have also headed out of town for a few days to settle jangled nerves.

Akaroa Museum
Is unaffected this time, all are OK.

Arts Centre of Christchurch
No direct word, but news and internet photos show significant damage.

Canterbury Museum
Staff are all OK. The sprinklers were activated and lots of loose things moved around in the staff areas. The situation in the public and storage areas is unknown but presumed to be ‘a mess’ and some bits have fallen off the building. With the whole central city cordoned off, they do not expect to get back in until after the weekend. The museum server is completely out of action so no staff will be able to access their work e-mails, even from outside the museum.
Updated 25/2: Director Anthony Wright will be releasing a media statement shortly, check their site. Anthony has confirmed that all staff are OK, but some have had their homes completely destroyed. He was able to enter the museum today with structural engineers, who inspected all spaces from the basement to the roof in both the main museum building and the Robert McDougall building. Both have been declared structurally sound, which is great news. Otherwise, there is loose masonry on the building, and the exhibits look to be 95% ok upon initial inspection (although by torchlight). It is not known about collection damage in the collection areas, however the water damage from activated sprinklers is reportedly only in a small area. It will be several weeks before staff can be admitted back into the building.

Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA)
Updated 25/2:
The building is still standing, but everything has come off the walls. They will be postponing the Anthony Harper Award dates, as well as their planned recruitment for a new position.

Christchurch Art Gallery
Updated 24/2: Gallery staff are all accounted for and safe, apparently no structural damage – ‘we’re in good shape considering all that has happened’. CAG is once again starring on TV news as the Civil Defence HQ, and will be closed until further notice while they support Civil Defence. They have sustained a small amount of damage to the collection. 10-15 works are affected & they are assessing condition & repair options.
Updated: 25/2: Experiences of CAG Senior Curator Justin Paton reported in the guardian here.

Lyttelton Museum
Has been closed since the September earthquake, and apparently suffered additional damage on Boxing Day. We have no information as yet, but fear it is now even worse.

Okains Bay Museum
Is unaffected this time, all are OK.

Our City O-Tautahi
Updated 31/3:
This was in the Municipal Chambers building which suffered damage last September and was still closed to the public. It is within the restricted ‘red zone’ and the current situation is not yet known.

Sound Archives
We’ve had unconfirmed reports that the archive has flooded. Will update when we learn more.

The Physics Room
All staff are safe, don’t expect to get back to their building to assess it for some while.

Timeball Station (NZHPT)
Is severely damaged, but thankfully both staff members there at the time of the quake got out safely. No news yet about the collection items which have been stored offsite since the September earthquake.

We have also heard that Lincoln Entomology Museum, Landcare Herbarium, Ashburton area museums, as well as South Canterbury Museum are ok.

We know that this information is only about the public face of these museums, and many staff will have huge challenges ahead with their own homes and families. Our thoughts and best wishes go to all our colleagues.

Kia kaha,

Phillipa and Sophie


17 Responses to “Canterbury Earthquake Museum Update”

  1. 1 Daniel Hogger March 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    After initial concerns over friends and family, my thoughts turned to the NZ community of Conservators and Museum/library staff who gave me my first break.

    My thoughts are with you, good luck in the future.



    The Whitworth Art Gallery
    The University Of Manchester

  2. 2 Dr Joanna Cobley February 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    The Whangarei Museum & Heritage Trust Board, Te Komiti representatives, staff, volunteers and Heritage Park Club members offer their sincerest condolences to families affected by the recent disaster.

    We welcome any residents of Christchurch who are traveling through Whangarei to come and enjoy Kiwi North, Whangarei’s museum, kiwi house and heritage park for free. We also have three free campervan parks available for people interested in parking up for a few days rest. Phone 09 438 9630 for details.

    Joanna Cobley (PhD)
    Director, Kiwi North

  3. 3 Meredith Foley February 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you Phillipa and the staff at Museums Aotearoa for posting updated advice on the situation for our museum colleagues in Christchurch. I have had many inquiries from Directors and staff here about their safety and it has been good to be able to put their concerns to rest with information as it has come to hand.

    CAMD offers its deepest condolences to those facing loss in the wake of this devastating tragedy. As the clean up and restoration work proceeds we are also hopeful that, through cooperation with our New Zealand members, we can provide practical support and assistance to the museum community in Christchurch as it rebuilds.


    Meredith Foley
    Executive Officer, Council of Australasian Museum Directors

  4. 4 Cathy Lillico-Thompson February 27, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Thank you for providing this information in the midst of all the anxiety and chaos. It is good news indeed that the NZ community of conservators and museum personnel are safe. I am sure that there will be times in the weeks ahead when the task of cleaning up and moving on will seem overwhelming. If we, your concerned colleagues can help in any way, please let us know what we can do.
    Cathy Lillico-Thompson

  5. 5 Fiona Hall February 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Thanks so much for the update – it is hard to be so far away when these kinds of things happen. To see the city I loved as a student reduced to such ruin is devastating but it is more important that everyone is safe

    My thoughts are with you all.

    Kia kaha,
    Fiona Hall
    Regional Curator, National Trust East of England

  6. 6 Shelly February 26, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Sending you strength and courage from California.

  7. 7 John Greenwood February 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Glad you are all safe, that is the main thing. Best wishes from here in Canberra.
    If you need help we can supply students to do the big sort out when the time comes.

    Stay safe

  8. 8 Liz Holcombe February 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for the update. It is a relief to hear that staff are safe. We are all thinking of you.


  9. 9 Jo Bain February 24, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Thank heaven all are safe. I despair for the poor staff at the Timeball – all that effort to carry out restoration work, damaged in September, and now …………. Keep your chin up Jan. And please get in touch when you are able ….

  10. 10 Grant Collie February 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Back in NZ for a break from my new role as Director of the Burke Museum in Victoria and devastated to see the devastation in the City I know so well. Not much we can do for now other than moral support, but any help my small institution can offer will be gladly given.

    For anyone in Canterbury needing a break, we have a sleep-out here in the Rangitikei that the Collie family will welcome any of our colleagues to use. Not much but perhaps even a short break well away might recharge the batteries.

    Kia kaha my friends


  11. 11 Jan Lyall February 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for the info. It is great to hear that the damage was a lot less than I was anticipating. My thoughts are with the staff and their families.

    What is the situation with libraries and archives?

  12. 13 George Bailey February 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    To our friends across the Tasman, you are in our thoughts.

    George Bailey
    Senior Objects Conservator
    Australian War Memorial

  13. 14 David Court February 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you for this excellent update.
    It is great to know that staff are safe and that most buildings have not been too badly damaged.
    My concern and best wishes to all involved in Christchurch. I pray that the Director of the Canterbury Museum, Anthony Wright can inspect the Museum and find that things not too far out of place.
    May the emergency teams and their colleagues be able to provide sufficient care for those in need.
    David Court
    c/o Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
    National University of Singapore

  14. 15 James McLean February 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Yes, good work thank you for the information.

  15. 16 melisa February 24, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Your museum colleagues here in The States are with you in thoughts and prayers. So happy to hear that for the most part everyone is safe and not injured.
    Best wishes for promising days ahead!!

  16. 17 Andy Fenton February 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Well done Museums Aotearoa for helping to keep the comms & advisories coming thru. People need to know what’s happening from authoritative sources – thank you for your contribution Phillippa & Sophie

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