Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Due to the dratted Covid lockdowns and subsequent Alert level yo-yo in Auckland our scheduled itinerary of excursions was somewhat curtailed this past year and so we were delighted to take up MOTAT CEO, Michael Frawley’s suggestion to visit the museum's “M3" off-site storage facility sooner than we had planned.
Due to short-notification and the need to visit on a weekday prior to Christmas, a small but eager group of 12 Society Members met at M2 where we had the chance to enter the Air NZ 747 Flight Simulator before boarding our coach for the drive to the secret location - “M3" site of the overflows, un-restoreds, future projects and un-displayed extra “stuff”. Collections Manager, Alba Letts greeted us with an H&S briefing and an informative post-tour discussion, openly answering questions from Society Members. We then moved into a slow and steady wander around the cavernous warehouse, viewing firsthand improvements made to the sorting, cataloguing, preservation and storage of the various objects held by the museum. Much reorganisation has been done since our last visit some two and a half years ago. Textiles, prints and documents are cleaned and stored in climate controlled environs, and many small objects and delicate items have found safe and secure homes in custom-fitted boxes specifically created for them by the recent purchase of a dedicated box-making machine. This machine is capable of creating specialised boxes with tops or hinged lids, front-opening etc - whatever is needed to safely store small items in comfort, rather than in jumbled plastic bins. The cardboard used is also “special” so as to not damage paper labels and colours etc. Of further interest was the visit upstairs to the rapidly developing Conservation Laboratory. Much microscopic miscellany was evident with many scopes, gloves, fume cabinets, tweezers and bottles of strange smelling solvents etc. The work being done in the Conservation Lab has been a great boost to the care of Collection objects, many of which have sat for years in unkind conditions at the previous off-site, or the notorious GP store. Of particular note was the presence of various bug-traps keeping the area pest-free. There's even a sticky mat to keep dirty footwear from tracking debris into the lab. This welcome new approach to the Collection care is driven by Conservation Manager, Kristie Short-Traxler who must be commended for her effort in dragging standards up, for the benefit of all. Alba mentioned that public tours are also planned in future which will be revenue-generating, as will the production of storage boxes for other heritage institutions. Another successful excursion for our members, we plan to return to M3 later in 2021 so as to keep abreast of developments there. by John Tutchen
The photo, courtesy of Alba Letts, MOTAT, shows our tour-party in the Conservation Lab. The Hi-Viz was to ensure some of the older members weren’t mistaken for artefacts and subsequently subjected to premature preservation.