Carved Oamaru stone keystone , NOM 98/541

Museum Day 2019

Each year, on May 18, museums around the globe celebrate International Museum Day. This year, the theme is ‘Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition’.

So what does that mean? For me, the hub idea is about linking people, collection items, places and stories together and exploring what comes out of those links. It is about engaging our visitors and encouraging them to interact with our museum.

That interaction can take many forms. Part of our museum is currently being refurbished. The staff involved in this, including myself, have put a lot of thought in to how visitors might interact with our new displays. Many of the displays will be accompanied by a ‘call to action’. For example, the Moeraki boulder display will encourage visitors to go to Moeraki and see the boulders on the beach. Likewise our display on the first successful export of the frozen meat from New Zealand will encourage people to visit Totara Estate and learn more about that history. We are fortunate in North Otago to have so many great sites for people to visit. Our call to action idea recognises that we are not the only place that preserves and presents local histories.

Other calls to action will reference different parts of the museum as some topics link across the spaces. For example the story of the formation of local limestone connects to the section looking at the uses of Oamaru stone. There will also be displays that encourage people to visit our archive and enquire about their own family stories. Our archive holds vast amounts of information on local people, businesses, properties, schools and churches. One of our roles is to connect people with these sources. Our role as a hub isn’t just one way either. We will also be encouraging visitors to contribute their knowledge, especially on topics where our collection knowledge is currently sparse.

Our museum has a role in reflecting on contemporary issues. As we prepare our new displays I have been fascinated when looking at the material culture of the Victorian era, a time before the large scale of use of plastic. It has led me to wonder how these objects might inspire us to imagine a life without plastic again. As the International Council of Museums states, museums “look for innovative ways to tackle contemporary social issues and conflict. By acting locally, museums can also advocate and mitigate global problems, striving to meet the challenges of today’s society proactively.” It’s a big ask, but an exciting one too.

I look forward to reflecting this time next year on how visitors are responding to our refurbished displays. I know that we will be enjoying all sorts of interactions between our visitors, our staff and our collections.

Chloe Searle