Te Papa's high public appeal set to improve

By VERNON SMALL and NZPA

Te Papa will improve display of the national art collection under a new agreement with the Government.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the changes, set out in Te Papa's statement of corporate intent, would enhance space for visual arts displays and improve the extent of, and access to, information about exhibitions.

The changes come after criticism of Te Papa's use of the art collection and the integration of art works in displays with social and historical artefacts such as used fridges.

The statement of intent echoes improvements urged by a review of the museum, commissioned in March and also released yesterday.

The review, convened by former Australian Museum head Des Griffin, mostly praises Te Papa for meeting its establishment objectives and notes that changes already under way will meet some of its recommendations.

When it was established, the review team, which included Auckland War Memorial Museum director Rodney Wilson and Auckland Gallery director Chris Saines, came under criticism as an "Auckland hatchet-job" on the Wellington icon.

The reviewers said 93 per cent of those surveyed about their visit to Te Papa rated it good to excellent.

That, and the fact Te Papa had recorded more than 3.5 million visits, clearly demonstrated its success at creating a new museum audience and furthering the cultural interests and aspirations of New Zealanders.

Helen Clark said she was satisfied with the review. "I think we can expect to see considerable progress in the issue of the display of art in particular."

Former Telecom chief executive Roderick Deane will replace Sir Ron Trotter as chairman of the board.

Other recommendations in the review included:

* Acknowledging and respecting the integrity of individual collections.

* Examining ways to re-interpret the convergence of the national and social environments of New Zealand.

* An evaluation of the visitor experience to be undertaken.

* The museum consider a central art exhibition space.

In May, the Government boosted Te Papa's funding by $11 million a year, including $3 million for acquisitions.

But Te Papa's financial statements put operating revenue at $34.3 million in the 2000-2001 financial year, dropping to $32.8 million the next year, mainly because of the loss of Lotteries Grants Board funding, which totalled $1.2 million this year.

A $12.5 million deficit is expected this financial year, rising to $13.3 million in 2001-2002 and $14.2 million in 2002-2003, largely a result of depreciation costs of more than $12.5 million a year.

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