Detail of NOM 2017/138 made for Maritza Boutique

International Museum Day 2018

May 18 is International Museum Day. The theme for this year’s International Museum Day is "Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics". This hyperconnectivity refers to the many ways we can communicate, including face-to-face, email, telephone and social media. This global network of communications impacts on how museums operate today.

Reflecting on this theme of connections and communications made me think about a recent donation our museum received and how it came about. Last year we received a wonderful collection of garments and archives associated with Maritza Boutique. Maritza Boutique was a fashion shop that operated in Oamaru from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. It was owned and operated by a group of local women and they created contemporary clothing for local people.

This acquisition began with face-to-face communication. Back in 2016 I attended the Making Women Visible history conference in Dunedin. One of the presentations I attended was ‘Sewing Dreams into Gold: The Benson and Hedges Fashion Design Awards (1964-1998) by Natalie Smith. Her talk mentioned Maritza Tschepp which reminded me of an item in our collection. That item is a kaftan (NOM 01/237) made with fabric purchased at Maritza Boutique. I made contact with Natalie and she visited Oamaru to view our collection.

Natalie’s visit prompted me to post on our museum’s Facebook page seeking more information about Maritza Boutique. When we ask for help via our Facebook page we are usually fortunate enough to have someone point us in the right direction! On this occasion we were very lucky that aside from receiving memories of the shop someone also tagged in Marjory Dench. Marjory was one of the key people associated with Maritza Boutique (and Maritza Tschepp’s mother.)

Following the Facebook post Marjory then emailed the museum. At this point in time Marjory was living in Colchester, England so face-to-face communication wasn’t an option. She and I wrote back and forth about Maritza Boutique. Ultimately Marjory generously offered the museum a collection of garments and archives associated with her business as well as things connected with her daughter’s design work. Opening the box when it arrived from England was a real treat.

I was very sad to receive an email from her husband recently saying that Marjory had passed away. I had greatly enjoyed Marjory’s correspondence and I will miss her even though we never met. I am very thankful that Facebook post brought us into contact though and I look forward to sharing more of the story of Maritza Boutique in future. Her family has kindly agreed to share any further information with us to complete our records.

Later this year we will be exhibiting one of the garments Marjory gave us in an exhibition named Confidence at the Forrester Gallery. This exhibition highlights some of the wonderful acquisitions made by the Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archive over the last 18 months. All of these donations are the result of connections and communications and as a small museum in Aotearoa New Zealand we are indeed fortunate that the hyperconnectivity of the 21st century provides us with so many ways to connect.

Chloe Searle