Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Renewing Te Papa

Te Papa chief executive Rick Ellis in front of Te Papa museum in Wellington a few weeks before he took up its reins in November 2014. Maarten Holl.

Deidre Mussen, Te Papa’s ageing permanent exhibitions to be replaced, The Dominion Post 16 April 2015

Te Papa‘s signature earthquake exhibition is about to fall victim to the museum’s latest shakeup.

The earth tectonics display Awesome Forces, which includes the Edgecumbe earthquake house, will be replaced by other physical exhibitions, as will all other permanent exhibitions, including Mountains to Sea and Passports. In addition, new digital experiences will be developed.

Te Papa’s new chief executive, Rick Ellis, said the exhibitions had been popular with visitors since the museum’s doors first opened in 1998.

“[They] were cutting edge in their day, but they’ve been here for 17 years.”

Ellis took up his position  in 2014 vowing to make the national museum an innovative world leader.

The planned new exhibitions would be “integrated with new digital museum experiences”, and would attract not just new visitors, he said.

“These new exhibitions will give every New Zealander a reason to come back to Te Papa for immersive experiences that showcase even more of the national collections.”

The redevelopment proposal was still in its early stages, but the museum was committed to remaining open during it, he said.

Meanwhile, the museum will carry out a second staff restructuring, barely two years after the previous one led to 31 jobs being lost, at a cost of $1.6 million, mainly in redundancy payouts.

“The development of some temporary exhibitions will be suspended during the redevelopment period. Te Papa will continue to host visiting exhibitions from overseas, like the recent Tyrannosaurs exhibition,” Ellis said.

“While the redevelopment is under way, Te Papa will need to redirect staff into that redevelopment. Some roles will change, but we do not expect a significant change to overall staff numbers.”

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