Our first few days of MTG Hawke's Bay being free have been a huge success - with more than 2000 people through the building in the last five days.

Coupled with 2000 people coming through the museum during White Night last Saturday as part of the Hawke's Bay Arts Festival, it's clear that free entry is popular with the community.

We're getting lots of positive feedback about both the museum and the free entry, so if there'd been any doubt (and there wasn't) we know this was the right decision!

It's wonderful to see and hear the museum full of people and with the school holidays we're teaming with families, which makes such a change to the feel and life of the building.


It's great to see parents and guardians enjoying exploring the museum together with youngsters and often working as a team on the activity sheets.

Children are loving being able to touch the photographs in the Century Theatre Foyer, triggering the sounds associated with the images.

With larger numbers of visitors, we're also discovering new things about how the building does and doesn't work.

Much of it is no surprise but nonetheless we're on a learning curve about how people move and navigate in this space.

We're much more aware now of some bottlenecks in the building. Some can be fixed by moving display cases and rethinking layout and spacing, and some we can't fix, such as the width of the "linkway" corridor that runs from the front of the museum to the Century Theatre Foyer.

We were already aware of challenges in way-finding through the building and this is high on the list of issues to resolve.

Although experience in other institutions tells me that this is always an issue, to a greater or lesser extent, we can still do much better.

When we had fewer numbers of people in our galleries it was easy to have many objects on fairly open display, but with crowds of people we need to reconsider how we're protecting these treasures that we hold on your behalf.

There's a power in numbers - helping us to see how our galleries and spaces best work, where we need to consider things more and where there are opportunities to do things differently.

So future gallery plans will not only include considering traffic flow, but also how we protect the collections, while still making them accessible, way-finding through spaces and storylines.

Our customer-service team are relishing the opportunity to welcome all the new and return visitors coming into the building.

Thank you for coming and showing that the museum is a place you value and please help spread the word that we are free so we can welcome everyone into, what is after all, their museum.

• Laura Vodanovich is the director of the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke's Bay.