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One last look before museum's demolition

The Southland App

05 April 2024, 3:16 AM

One last look before museum's demolitionInvited guests do one last look through Southland Museum before it is demolition later this month. Photo: ICC

Te Rūnaka o Awarua kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga and Invercargill City Council mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook, of Waihōpai Rūnaka, led mana whenua, past and present museum staff, trust members, and the project team on a final walk-through of the ground floor of Southland Museum and Art Gallery last week (25 Mar), ahead of the building's demolition this month (Apr).

The occasion was also used as a whakawātea - to clear the way for demolition, and also included a poroporoaki ceremony.

The building's demolition will make way for the new Te Unua Museum of Southland which is set to open in late 2026.

An artist's impression of the new Te Unua Museum of Southland. Graphic: ICC

A new facility has already been built at Tisbury to store the museum's current collections, while the museum's resident tuatara - currently residing in a secret city location - will be relocated to a purpose-built enclosure within Queens Park.

Whaanga said it was a time for reflection and to farewell the whare.

“There’s a lot of memories in this place and a lot of energy. Energy still reverberates through here, but this house has done its mahi.”

Southland Regional Collection Manager Wayne Marriott said he was thinking of all of the people who had been through the doors and all the things that had happened over the building’s many years.

“There was a heck of a lot of fun in this place, it buzzed. We’re going to say goodbye to a building, a building that has stood the test of time and now is our opportunity to say haere rā.”

Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Michael Day said he had memories of visiting the museum as a child.

“For me, this place has great memories. This has memories for Southland and I hope we all treasure those memories and take those with us. Those memories will continue and it’s not a building that continues with those memories, it’s us as people.”

Te Unua Museum of Southland Director Eloise Wallace said she first visited the old museum in the 90s as a teenager, long before starting her journey into museums.

“I remember it was humming and there was something new around every corner."

“Coming back here many years later to Southland charged with developing and operating Te Unua is really exciting."

“I want to acknowledge the building and what it has given to Southland, and the people who have been associated with this place for so many years and all of their mahi to make this place magic."

“Those memories will remain on this site and weave their way into the new building that rises.”

An artist's impression of the new complex for Invercargill's tuatara. Graphic: ICC

The end of the collection move and start of demolition marked a significant milestone for the project, Wallace said.

"We are now looking ahead to Te Unua Museum of Southland, which when completed in 2026, will offer an incredible modern museum facility, embodying state-of-the-art design and innovative experiences," she said.

Acknowledging the community's bond with the old museum, Wallace said, "We understand it may be confronting for many locals to see the pyramid come down.

"It has been an icon and a fixture in the lives of Southlanders for many years. However, this is an important milestone in our move towards a new space. So, in many ways, this is an exciting step."

"However, we won't close this chapter without giving residents the chance to say goodbye in their own way. Keep an eye out for Council's Memory Lane initiative coming soon."

City Councillors inspecting the museum's new storage facility at Tisbury. Photo: ICC

The Memory Lane initiative invites Southland residents to share their memories of the museum through stories, photos, audio messages, and handwritten notes.

Contributions can be made via Invercargill City Council's social media channels or at designated drop-off points and will commemorate the museum's rich history and impact on local lives.

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