Posts Tagged 'Lyttelton Museum'

Air Force Museum assist salvaging Lyttelton museum artifacts

Helping hand for Lyttelton Museum


In early March the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, located at Wigram, was approached to see if assistance could be provided to help salvage and store some of the more vulnerable items from Lyttelton Museum. The building sustained severe damage on 22 February and was on the verge of collapsing. The honorary curator, a 90+ year old gentleman, was very distraught and anxious that the collection should be saved. In addition to general Lyttelton ephemera, the collection contains important maritime material relating to Lyttelton, as well as Antarctic objects that are second only to those held by Canterbury Museum.

After some planning and purchase of materials a small team of mainly curatorial staff drove to Lyttelton via the tunnel on Friday 4 March. The damage to many of Lyttelton’s historic buildings was extensive and severe. On reaching Lyttelton
Museum it was clear that the team would not be entering the building because of the risk of collapse and concern for public safety. Members of the Lyttelton Volunteer Fire Brigade, armed with instructions about what objects needed to be removed and a determination to succeed in doing so, entered the building and began bringing out the treasures. Air Force Museum staff set up a packing area located between the unstable museum building on one side and the road to the port on the other along which large articulated trucks were continually travelling to get supplies through to Christchurch and beyond. The rescued objects were carefully packed and transported back to Wigram for temporary storage.

By day’s end about 25% of the collection had been rescued and placed in safe storage at Wigram, much to the relief and delight of the museum’s honorary curator. It is hoped that the building can be stabilised so that the remainder of the collection can be saved. For those staff involved, it was a challenging, rewarding and thoroughly interesting day, and a very satisfying opportunity to handle precious local community treasures and to help our fellow museum colleagues.
David Watmuff
Collections manager
Air Force Museum of New Zealand

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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.

News Update 3 March

Kia ora

We have uploaded the latest batch of news from the print media here, you will need to be logged in the the members’ area to view.

The last week has been overshadowed by news from Christchurch. Our aroha, sympathy and very best wishes are with all our whanau, friends and colleagues who have been caught up in the earthquake and its aftermath. Museums Aotearoa and National Services Te Paerangi are compiling a register of volunteers and ideas to help the Christchurch cultural sector’s recovery. Please contact Sophie de Lautour Kelly at sophie@museumsaotearoa.org.nz (or call 04 499 1313) if you would like to volunteer or have any suggestions.

We have had messages of solidarity from all over the world, including ICOM headquarters in Paris. Click here to read the ICOM Letter from Director General Julien Anfruns . You can also read and contribute a message of support on our Facebook discussion page here, or in the comments on our previous blogpost here.

In the Christchurch area, people are already pulling together. Thérèse Angelo reports that the Air Force Museum, which suffered only minor damage, is not only providing working space for two government agencies, SPCA/emergency vets and a firm of architects, but their staff are also going out to help Lyttelton Museum volunteers retrieve collection items from their severely damaged building.

Back in the office, we are working on details of the MA11 conference. If you haven’t registered yet, the earlybird rate is available until Monday 7 March. We will extend this rate for people whose plans have been interrupted by the Christchurch earthquake. If this applies to you, please contact the office as soon as you can, so that we may secure you a place.

We have also received an exciting batch of applications for the 2011 New Zealand Museum Awards, and look forward to announcing finalists later this month ahead of the celebration dinner on 14 April.

Nga mihi,

Phillipa and Sophie

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


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