Monday, April 07, 2008

Letter to Listener (not published)

In a recent Curmudgeon column Hamish Keith blames the building for Te Papa’s woes. He needs to understand that bricks don’t make museums, people do. We’ve all seen great museums in bad buildings and bad museums in good ones. Hiding behind a building is a cop-out. Sure we live in a small country, but if Keith really wants to explain why Te Papa turned into a kid’s museum, he needed to name the people responsible. First up there is Keith himself, along with all the others who were closely involved in the culture in the late 1980s and 1990s, ourselves included. In Keith’s case that included being on the National Art Gallery Board for 15 years, and its Chair from 1985 to July 1992. He was also a member of the MONZ Project Development Board. We all knew the model was wrong and we couldn’t stop it. It was people like us who allowed Te Papa to happen, not the carpenters and floor layers. Then there were the architects and builders of the idea at the time. Ken Gorbey (Museum Team Leader) who was there from the beginning and is still proud to be the conceptual architect of the project. James Mack (Assistant Director of the National Museum) who helped invent and test the ocka-gothic story telling techniques. Ian Wedde (Founding Visionary and Concept Leader Humanities) who gave the relegation of art to illustrating Te Papa’s stories some intellectual credibility and, of course, Cheryl Sotheran (CEO) who got the building built on time and on budget.
Image: Hamish Keith at Te Papa Museum Project Board meeting, published in a Museum of New Zealand newsletter.