Museum Trust Board looks to future

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board has made some key decisions to ensure the future of a museum for our region, based in Invercargill.

Trust Board Chairwoman Toni Biddle said since the closure of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, the Trust Board had been working on a positive way forward, focusing on making the best of what has been a devastating situation for many.

“Our ultimate goal is to achieve a redeveloped museum and art gallery in the same footprint and location,” she  said. “We believe the museum sets the perfect scene for the proposed Living Dinosaurs project, and is the gateway to one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, Queens Park.”

While a vision for how a redevelopment can be achieved is yet to be decided, the Trust Board has taken several key steps to secure a short and medium-term presence of museum-related activities in the region, and to work towards the long-term goal of having the museum open and welcoming the community once more.

Councillor Tonie Biddle
Ms Biddle

Ms Biddle [pictured] said continuation of the Learning Experience Outside The Classroom programme had been secured, allowing the museum educator to travel to Southland Schools.

“We have had an overwhelming, supportive response from our local schools, including Southland Girls’ High School, which is hosting an exhibition on the museum’s behalf,” she said. “We have been inundated with offers of support from local businesses, and for this reason, we intend to explore more collaborative ways of delivering creative exhibitions throughout the city while we work on the plan for our museum.”

The Trust Board had made a submission to the Invercargill City Council’s Long-term Plan, asking for the museum to be a priority in city planning, and is working closely with the Southland Regional Heritage Committee, Ms Biddle said.

Perhaps one of the biggest steps taken by the Trust Board, was the commissioning of a review to help guide the Board on the best ways to redevelop the museum, she said. said. “The review will encompass all the work that has been done over the past decade, and bring it together to provide a clear plan forward. It will include public consultation throughout the Southland region, and more details on this review will be released soon.”

Ms Biddle acknowledged that since the announcement of the museum closure, the Trust Board had not waded into debates regarding the reports and advice given to the board previously.

“We know that the community is grieving the closure of the museum, as we are. Our community deserves a facility to tell the stories of our region and show our enriched culture and heritage,” she said.

“We believe it is inappropriate to go into public battle over claims made that the Trust Board acted inappropriately. While some have questioned professional reports and advice given to the Trust Board, we stand by the evidence provided to us and our decisions to put public safety first.

“We make no apologies for doing so. Debating past reports and expert advice is unhelpful, and the Trust Board intends to look to the future to find positive solutions,” Ms Biddle said.