The Auckland Museum Trust Board has backed its director, Vanda Vitali, in her push for the museum to keep full publishing rights for Sir Edmund Hillary's papers.

Dr Vitali believes that because Sir Ed left his documents - writings, diaries and family photographs - to the museum, he presumably meant them to be available to "the citizens of Auckland and New Zealand".

The board said it had carefully reviewed the process of bringing Sir Ed's papers into the museum and it was "strongly supportive" of Dr Vitali's stance.

Museum head of communications Russell Briggs said it would be in New Zealanders' best interests for the matter to go to court, because it would bring clarity to the issue.

Peter and Sarah Hillary are going to the High Court in a bid to keep control of writings, diaries and family photographs their father left to the museum in his will.

Their legal action, to be heard on June 24, names the executors of their father's estate as defendants, but the dispute is with the museum over the interpretation of a clause in the will.

Peter Hillary rubbished the board's backing of Dr Vitali, saying she was muddying a very simple matter and denying the family its intellectual property "while smiling all the way".

"Anyone who met my father knows that he was a straight talker. He didn't use any fancy footwork or flowery language. This is a very clear-cut matter."

He said the dispute had been "exceedingly traumatic" for the family.

"This is a large institution which has full-time lawyers. We have families, and businesses to run, as well as this museum situation.

"We would very much like a resolution before it reaches court."

He said the papers were of crucial importance to the family because of their interest in publishing. "I wrote a book together with my father, and have published many more. Sarah has written books too." He said the museum should be embarrassed that Prime Minister John Key had felt compelled to try to resolve the dispute.

Mr Briggs said the board members hoped to discuss their stance with Mr Key and had contacted him to arrange a meeting.

Dr Vitali has described the museum as the victim in the dispute, and said it intended to honour Sir Ed's request to allow his family access to the documents.

A former climbing companion of Sir Ed's, Mike Gill, who knew him for more than 45 years, told the Herald the museum was completely misreading the will.

"He meant what he said. He wanted his two surviving children, Peter and Sarah Hillary, to have control of how his papers were used for a period of 20 years after his death."