News Update 18 March 2011

Earthquake news still dominates our media – now in Japan as well as Christchurch. Today’s national memorial service in Hagley Park will have been seen or heard by many thousands around the country.

There was a minor press furore as it seemed a Christchurch antique shop might be demolished without any attempt to retrieve items from it – but this seems now to have been done. A small group of people protested yesterday about the apparent demolition of some buildings without the owners or occupiers knowing or being given a chance to salvage anything. Authorities are gradually allowing access where possible and clearing vehicles from the CBD. As well as the mainstream news media, there is lots of activity on blogs, local websites and Facebook.

Much of the Christchurch CBD still has a closed ‘red zone’, staff have not yet been able to return to Christchurch Art Gallery or Canterbury Museum, and COCA trustees have made the decision to close indefinitely – and have made all the staff redundant. Sumner and Lyttelton museum collections have been removed prior to probable demolition of both buildings. The future restoration of other heritage buildings is as yet unknown, including the Arts Centre. In the mean time, the Air Force Museum is open, and helping fellow museums as well as several other displaced organisations.

We have had numerous offers of help, mostly expertise, person power, fundraising ideas, or respite from CHCH. At this stage there is limited scope for extra people to help on the ground. Judith Taylor and Ian Wards of National Services Te Paerangi will be helping COCA to pack up its collection and prepare for an ‘indeterminate period’ of closure. There is little more that can be done from outside Christchurch until Canterbury Museum and Christchurch Art Gallery staff get back into their buildings to undertake a careful assessment and plan for recovery. Until that time, we thank all those who have made generous offers, and we know that many have already been able to help their friends and colleagues personally as well.

There is other news of course. In the UK, some simmering disquiet about the fate of gifted items held in the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum has resulted in the dismissal of its director and a pending police investigation, read about it here. This collection includes items presented to Britain by New Zealand, and raises important questions which align with the planned collection ethics discussion at MA11 in Nelson.

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