Museum smashing records

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BOOMING:  The Rotorua Museum is enyoing a boom in visitor numbers.  PHOTO/FILE
BOOMING: The Rotorua Museum is enyoing a boom in visitor numbers. PHOTO/FILE

Record numbers are streaming through the Rotorua Museum doors but it is the big increase in local visitors that is most pleasing director Stewart Brown.

He credits the 30 per cent increase in local patronage to greater engagement with the community, increasingly relevant family shows, and staff thinking outside the more traditional museum fare.

"For example "On The Wing" a unique and New Zealand first project won Best Museum Project in 2014 and continues on today," he said.

The award-winning partnership with Rotorua-based Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre to secure the future of kārearea, the New Zealand falcon, has resulted in the first urban release of a threatened species in New Zealand.

Chicks are placed in the hack box on the roof of Rotorua Museum and released from there.

"It's all about understanding the audience. It's showing our diversity and relevance to the community," said Mr Brown.

Its performance is contributing to Rotorua Lakes Council's favourable financial situation councillors were told at last week's Operations and Monitoring committee.

Exhibitions like Play Space, the Rotorua Trust Heritage Collection, Every Tea Towel Tells a Story and AEIOU (Explore the Māori alphabet) have brought in record numbers.

Last month the museum hosted 14,500 visitors - a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.

There is also increased patronage in the cafe.

"All areas of trading saw records fall and sometimes it was so busy we had queues out the door and not enough seats in the café. Our staff did an amazing job dealing with the large volumes and congestion." said Mr Brown.

"While that is a great problem to have, congestion and long queues are not something long-term we want to see happening.

"The introduction of faster Eftpos machines and a third till at the front desk will allow us to handle more visitors, create faster transaction times and an increase in retail sales, but visitor flows is something we are going to need to work on," he said.

Another initiative likely to boost local participation is the partnership between the museum and Rotorua's first Children's Art House. The Art House, formerly the old Caretakers Cottage in Government Gardens, is a dedicated facility for children and young people to attend after school, at weekends and school holidays.

The rest of the time the house can be used by the museum to run some of its education programmes thereby moving numbers out of the museum. In return the museum covers the daily running costs for the house on behalf of the Art House Trust.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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