Families connected to MTG Hawke’s Bay

Patrons are a cornerstone in the creation of an exceptional museum. Prized pieces, special collections and spectacular exhibitions, the Museum would be unable to obtain any of these on its own. Each is made possible through the generosity of everyday people who choose to become patrons.

Community money, through council rates, pays MTG Hawke’s Bay’s day-to-day expenses, but it is patrons who have created its reputation for excellence.

Philanthropy comes in many forms: gifts, bequests from trusts and estates, donations, sponsorship of specific rooms within the Museum. Vital conservation of older works is also only possible through funds gifted to MTG Hawke’s Bay. Patronage solves a very real challenge museums face: how to add to the great collections of yesteryear and how to ensure they are still around for many years to come.

There is a rich history of philanthropy at MTG Hawke’s Bay. In the best possible way, the direction of the Museum has been shaped by its patrons: the collections, specific artefacts, whole galleries. The generosity of the community tells MTG Hawke’s Bay’s story as much as its influential directors.

Sir Douglas Maclean and Lady Florence


McLean family, collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 13405

The patronage of Sir Douglas and Lady Florence Maclean galvanised the decision to build the original Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery.

Lady Florence gifted to the Museum an extensive collection of artefacts, antiques and archives on the proviso they were housed in a ‘fire-proof building’. So began the construction of the first section of MTG Hawke’s Bay. From there, over 850 items were gifted to the Museum across a range of diverse areas echoing the exotic, eclectic tastes of the McLean family. Many items were of historical importance to Hawke’s Bay. Lady Florence and Sir Douglas, first president of the Napier Society of Arts and Crafts, had owned Maraekakaho Station. Douglas’ father Donald had been instrumental to the development of the region in the mid 1800s. The McLean Gallery and HBMT’s collection of works by Horatio Robley are also made possible by the generosity of the McLean family.

Gwen Malden

Gwen Malden, collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 7264a

Gwen Malden gave much to MTG Hawke’s Bay. Gwen, herself a watercolourist, parlayed the profits of an inheritance into a trust, which then paid for the construction of MTG Hawke’s Bay’s Malden Gallery in 1954. Today the Gwen Malden Trust continues the good works of its founder through many generous gifts across Hawke’s Bay in the areas of art, music, education and welfare. The former Malden Gallery is now home to the Archive of the Hawke’s Bay region.

Harold Holt

Harold Holt, collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 5379

To celebrate a century of trading, H R Holt, of the Carter Holt business conglomerate, gifted enough funds to build a southern section onto the original Museum. This opened as the Holt Gallery and was in existence from 1959- 2010. Later, Holt took up a position as President of the Hawke’s Bay Art Society and, in the 1980s, again contributed to the construction of new display cases for the museum. 

W T Dobson

The recent legacy of Napier lawyer W T Dobson was also a generous one. The MTG Hawke’s Bay redevelopment fund contains $400,000 from this trust.

Morris Spence

 Morris Spence, collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 7608

Morris Spence was a prominent Napier accountant with a passionate belief in the potential MTG Hawke’s Bay. In his will he generously provided for the upkeep of the Museum. His highly personalised vision was to contribute financially to the less glamorous areas in which he guessed the Museum would always struggle. In the 1950s he created a trust that still pays annually towards building maintenance.

Mary Bestall

Mary Bestall, collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi, 3354

Mary Bestall, widow of influential Museum Director Leo Bestall, died in 1976 and through her will solidified an already strong relationship the Bestalls had with MTG Hawke’s Bay.

The Museum benefited from a generous acquisition fund. In her will she specified funds should be used ‘for the purchase of pictures and other works of art for display in the Art Gallery or Museum’. Today, administered by the MTG Foundation, works are still bought each year through the Mary Bestall fund.

Paying Dividends

Countless small contributions, and a few substantial ones, mean MTG Hawke’s Bay is intrinsically linked to many families across Hawke’s Bay.

Such gestures within a museum have a long life and they continue to pay dividends to the community for a very long time.

Contemporary patronage in the world of creative industries is a fulfilling and inspiring undertaking. It contributes much to the arts, to cultural wellbeing, to the preservation of social history. It is only through such contributions that a bright, buoyant future for MTG Hawke’s Bay is possible.

To find out more about ways of giving to the MTG Hawke’s Bay please visit our Donate and Support pages.


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