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Behind the scenes of an exhibition

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This month we closed Silver Shadows: The Story of Marineland. This nostalgic exhibition exemplified the significant amount of research and detail that goes into creating such an experience. Our curatorial team spend considerable time ensuring they fully understand any subject matter they are researching, before they identify the key storylines and consider the best way to group and order the information. Some exhibitions work best chronologically, such as A Bloody Business: the history of five Hawke’s Bay freezing works, while others, like Pūrākau o Te Whenua, are arranged geographically, and yet others are split into themes, for example Silver: heirlooms from the collection. There is no one way to order how we present our exhibitions - each one is unique and deserves its own considerations.

For Silver Shadows, Gail Pope, our History Curator, delved deeply into Marineland records, newspapers, Daily Telegraph photographs and other articles, along with interviewing ex-employees and visitors, to fully uncover the rich and varied history of Marineland and present a truly unique exhibition. Not only does all this research support the development of exhibitions but also newspaper columns, public talks, tours, education programmes and occasionally publications. A number of our exhibitions over the last several years have included original videos interviewing people related to the subject matter of the exhibition. All these outputs of research provide an important archive and contribute to the body of knowledge and research for the future.

While I am often sad to see exhibitions close, with the departure of one exhibition another one follows. The team are now working on the install of our next exhibition The Light Shone Clear: History. Perspectives. Art. This exhibition, curated by Toni MacKinnon, conveys a perspective on times and events that shaped Te Matau-a-Māui / Hawke’s Bay and Aotearoa / New Zealand, through the art collection. Some artworks were created in the period of an event, while other are more recent looking back into history – they all provide an interesting framework and perspective.

There is also much more than research involved in creating an exhibition. Our collections staff manage issues like copyright, ensure objects and artworks are in the best condition possible, and update and track the location of each collection item. If we need to borrow items from other institutions or individuals for display, the collection team organise the contract, packing, transport, receipts and condition reporting – and the reverse at the end of the loan.

Then our design staff determine the exhibition layout, look and feel, they construct temporary walls, plinths and structures that give shape to the gallery space. They create unique mounts specifically fitted to each item, frame images and artwork, complete graphic design elements and finally install everything along with the objects 

Once the exhibition is created, we are not done – our educators develop innovative new programmes for each exhibition and offer these to schools. Staff organise an opening event, social media, newsletters and other marketing material, and our fabulous customer service team promote and explain the exhibition to our visitors.

Next time you come into the museum, why not have a good look around at one of our exhibitions and consider all the work and talent that has gone into it. It takes everyone at the museum to deliver an exhibition and I think the region should be really proud of what this amazing team of people do – I know I am!

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper on 30 March 2024 and written by Laura Vodanovich, Director at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Image: Flash on display in previous exhibition, Silver Shadows, at MTG

3 April 2024

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