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Tūhura OM set to break visitor record

John Lewis, Museum set to break visitor record, Otago Daily Times, 26 June 2024

Against the odds, Tūhura Otago Museum is set to achieve its highest visitor numbers on record by the end of this month, exceeding 400,000 visits.

Museum director Ian Griffin

Museum director Ian Griffin said the past 18 months had been difficult, because under the previous government, the museum had its Curious Minds funding stopped.

“Curious Minds gave us a lot of funding for a lot of our education outreach programmes, so the cut was a bit of a hit to us.”

He said school pupils attending the education outreach programmes were counted among the 400,000 visitors to the museum.

Normally, cuts in funding resulted in fewer people visiting, because the museum could not afford to put on as wide a variety or high-quality exhibitions. But the museum had been working hard against the odds.

Dr Griffin was delighted the Dunedin City Council recently agreed to give the museum a 4% increase to its levy funding next year.

“It is a tough funding environment. Money for the education programmes, in particular, is scarce.

“We really appreciate the 4% increase in levy funding from the DCC, but inflation is still running at 6%, so that means we’ve still got some funding challenges.

“We’re working hard to address those and we’re making sure that the money we do get is really well spent.”

The 400,000 visitor milestone surpasses previous records, which last peaked in 2020 at 368,475 visits.

The increased popularity is believed to now position the museum as the most visited cultural institution in the South Island.

Museum marketing manager Charlie Buchan attributed the success to the dedication of the museum’s staff and a strategic pivot during the pandemic.

“During Covid-19, we had to adapt to ensure our survival.

“We focused heavily on our community engagement, offering a variety of events and establishing ourselves as a hub for the region.

“This approach not only retained our local audience, but also attracted new and returning visitors.

“By continuously refreshing our events and programmes, we ensured the museum remained a vibrant destination.”

Dr Griffin said the new cafe that had been open for nearly a year had also contributed.

“We’re becoming a destination place, not just for museum-lovers, but for foodies as well.

“I think it’s a real tribute to the museum team and the events programme that has attracted all these folks to the museum.”

Despite the funding challenges, domestic and international visitors were returning in the post-Covid-19 era and Dr Griffin was confident the museum’s visitor numbers had not peaked.

He believed he would be able to continue attracting very high numbers of visitors in the coming year.

“We’re working hard.

“We’re cutting our cloth accordingly and we’re determined to offer anybody who comes here an excellent time.

“I can’t tell you about it yet, but we’re very, very excited about an exhibition that we’ll have on over the summer period, which we think will be a major attraction and bring lots of people in.

“Keep an eye out for that.”