Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

CM partially covers Māori historic exhibit

A black and white image of the exhibit at Canterbury Museum before it was shrouded over. Supplied.

Jake Kenny, Complaints lead to covering of Māori exhibit at Canterbury Museum, Stuff, 12 June 2020

Complaints from the public have led to the covering of an exhibit depicting Māori people at Canterbury Museum.

The exhibit, which depicts a Māori family in pre-colonial times, has been partly shrouded while accompanying words apologise for any offence it may have caused.

The diorama showed a man sketching on a wall with a rock, a woman hunched over as she attempts to start a fire, and a child taking a drink from a container.

There are two similar dioramas in the same area of the museum which have not been covered, one depicts two men hunting moa, and the other shows two men starting a fire while a woman fishes.

The covered exhibit was the one with “the majority of complaints”, a museum spokesman said.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright said the exhibit was “partially veiled” on March 16 after concerns were raised by members of the community on its portrayal of Māori.

Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright said the exhibit was “partially veiled” on March 16 after concerns were raised by members of the community on its portrayal of Māori.

The first exhibit in the indigenous section of Canterbury Museum has been shrouded over with an apology for the offence it may have caused. JAKE KENNY/STUFF

She said exhibits should be used to better explain the relationships between European and Māori, rather than perpetuating “unhelpful” Māori depictions and carrying an oppositional narrative.

“I’m not sure I agree with shrouding over the exhibits, I think that politicizes the situation,” McMeeking said.

There is now an apology written in English and Māori on a shrouded section of the exhibit. JAKE KENNY/STUFF

She said exhibits should be used to better explain the relationships between European and Māori, rather than perpetuating “unhelpful” Māori depictions and carrying an oppositional narrative.

“I’m not sure I agree with shrouding over the exhibits, I think that politicizes the situation,” McMeeking said.

Canterbury Museum’s director, Anthony Wright, explains the challenges facing a 150-year-old ‘rabbit warren’ looking after 2.3 million items. See video.

“The really important conversation should be around replacing those dioramas and explaining that they were a product of the time they were made.”

She said she commended the notion that the museum would liaise with Ngāi Tahu around the creation of a new exhibit, but argued it should be for all of the exhibits depicting Māori, and not just one.

Canterbury Museum is set for a $195 million redevelopment as it struggles to store and display much of its taonga.

Canterbury Museum has apologised and covered an exhibit that depicts pre-colonial Māori. (File photo). JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

While no plans or timeline are finalised, the work could see the museum closed for up to three years.

The central Christchurch heritage complex, in the Botanic Gardens, has grown steadily but without any coherent plan since opening as one small building in 1870.

Today there are eight attached structures plus the adjacent Robert McDougall Art Gallery building, which has been closed since the Canterbury earthquakes.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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