Last year the collections team at MTG Hawke's Bay began hosting regular monthly behind-the-scenes tours for the public.
Due to popular demand these will continue in 2020. The first one is a general highlights tour of different treasures from the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust collection including archives, costumes, artworks, social history objects, taonga and so on. You'll also get to learn about our role as kaitiaki and how we care for the collection on behalf of the community.
In 2019 collection tours covered a number of themes that tied in with exhibitions at the museum, or coincided with events such as Māori Language Week.
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Around Art Deco Weekend, in conjunction with The Architectural Legacy of J A Louis Hay exhibition, we looked at plans and drawings by other local architects and learnt more about Hay's dedicated draughtswoman Thelma Williamson.
We repeated the presentation for a delegation from the Hawke's Bay branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, who provided technical knowledge of processes such as diazo printing – used to reproduce plans before photocopying and computer-aided drafting became mainstream.
Artworks depicting the Hawke's Bay landscape were displayed during a behind-the-scenes tour that coincided with the Five Pākehā Painters exhibition.
Alongside paintings by critically acclaimed artists were examples of art being used as a device to record local information, prior to the commercialisation of photography.
Silver: Heirlooms of the Collection (currently on display at MTG; come in and feast your eyes if you've not visited this yet!) inspired a tour of objects made from other precious metals.
As well as gold watches and gilded picture frames, we discovered lesser-known items, such as Katanga crosses, which were used as a form of currency in central Africa, and a decorative copper tray made by local artist Elizabeth Matheson, before she became established as a studio potter.
New Zealand Fashion Week in August last year allowed us to indulge our passion for design (and to wear fancy frocks from our personal wardrobes to work!).
As part of the tour we highlighted garments from the collection that showed the evolution of high fashion in New Zealand. A 1963 Gown of the Year entry, a tiered confection gloriously titled Vienna Bon Bon, is always a favourite with fashion devotees.
The tour scheduled for NZ Fashion Week 2020 will focus on men's and women's clothing and accessories from the Victorian era.
Preparing for these public visits adds to our body of knowledge about the collection. As well as giving visitors a chance to see different items from the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust collection, it's also an opportunity to undertake further research and gain new insight into individual objects and their provenance. We're then able to update our records and share this information through exhibitions, online catalogues, etc.
The first general highlights tour for 2020 is already fully booked but will be repeated three times during the year so keep an eye on our website, Facebook or Eventfinda for dates.
Other themes for this year include: nautical; mythical creatures (timed for the school holidays and including a family friendly craft activity); domestic technology; and four seasons in fine art.
We hope you'll come and enjoy a glimpse behind the scene.
Cathy Dunn, Collections Assistant – Archives