Today is International Museum Day - a perfect chance to visit a museum and explore how they can help us understanding ourselves and our history.


When I was quite young I read an autobiographical book written by Helen Keller. It had a significant impact on me and I remember trying for weeks to imagine what it would be like being unable to see or hear, unable to communicate with people, to live in darkness and silence.

Laura Vodanovich.
Laura Vodanovich.

I remember also the seemingly miraculous change that occurred once Helen was given the tools to communicate – earning a degree, becoming a writer, a lecturer and a political activist.

The human need to communicate and connect is strong and the importance of this is exemplified in the profound change once Helen Keller is finally able to communicate. It's though communication that we learn about the world around us, where we fit in, what makes us different and the same as others.

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Today is International Museum Day and this year's theme is Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition. "As institutions at the heart of society, museums have the power to establish dialogue between cultures, to build bridges for a peaceful world and to define a sustainable future."

Understanding ourselves, our history and our place is an important first step that museums can help with.

Showing and sharing stories of people and place, especially local regional stories, helps create a sense of connection to our past and present and can imagine our future.

Equally important is the role museums play in helping people to understand each other – different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicity and experiences.

Museums are uniquely placed to perform this role as we can act as "safe places for unsafe ideas", neutral ground in which to explore and try to understand other viewpoints and realities.

Many of our exhibitions provide a sense of the experiences of people from different times, cultures and places – giving a different point of view.

House of Webb gives an insight into what it was like migrating to a new country, the reason why one family came and the marked difference between their original homeland and their new home in New Zealand.

Project Banaba shares a very different reality – of having your home deliberately destroyed just so people in other parts of the world can maximise their agriculture. 5 Pākehā Painters presents a viewpoint of Pākehā culture and Tēnei Tonu shares tangata whenua histories. While the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake provides an insight into the experiences of people during this devastating time for our region.

All these examples share the common thread of telling stories and the viewpoints of various people or groups.

Today we're showing a film that shares yet another reality. The World at Arm's Length follows Sven, who like Helen Keller is blind and deaf, as he walks the Camino de Santiago. This film exposes the raw emotions as Sven struggles with his goal, his challenges, and with those trying to support him.

It is our privilege and responsibility to share different experiences, different cultures and different worldviews with you. In doing so we all have the opportunity to broaden our minds, our understanding of the world and of each other - and from that platform we can surely find better ways to live and thrive together.

Laura Vodanovich is MTG director

What's On

• Help us celebrate International Museum Day with the launch of the MTG Movie Club. Our first screening is - The World at Arm's Length. This film show a heart-wrenching search for man's place in the world. Sven - lacking both sight and hearing - takes on the pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago. The World at Arm's Length does not shy away from showing mankind at his most vulnerable, most hopeful, most excited, and most primal. MTG Century Theatre, today, Saturday May 18, 2-3.30pm. $10 for adults. Free event for Friends of the Museum. Tickets available through Eventfinda.

• Brodsky Quartet. Returning to New Zealand after their celebrated 2015 tour, this illustrious quartet offers two contrasting programmes that reflect the group's unique versatility. MTG Century Theatre, May 22, 7.30–9.30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.

• Jazz Gala: Gregg Bissonette, Louis Dowdeswell and Glenn Walter. Featuring from the USA - drummer Gregg Bissonette, vocalist Glenn Walters and UK trumpet star Louis Dowdeswell. All in concert with the Rodger Fox Big Band. MTG Century Theatre, Sunday, June 2 at 8pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.

• Exhibition Talk. Join social history curator Gail Pope for an insightful tour of House of Webb: A Victorian Family's Journey to Ormondville and learn more about the family and their lives. Tuesday, June 4, 11am-noon. All welcome, meet in MTG foyer. Free event.

• Exhibition Talk. Join social history curator Gail Pope for an in-depth look at Silver: Heirlooms from the Collection. Tuesday, June 4, 12.30-1pm. All welcome, meet in MTG foyer. Free event.