26 Sep 2018

International experts to review Te Papa's collections named

2:44 pm on 26 September 2018

The people who will carry out a review of Te Papa's collections, and the method they'll use, has been released.

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Photo: Supplied

The museum will carry out the review after many raised concerns a proposed restructure would mean its collections were not properly cared for.

It said the objectives for the panel were to establish a benchmark for collection management that minimised risk to Te Papa's collections; review and approve its collection policy, strategy and standards; ensure it was meeting modern practices of collection management and access; and make sure it met its commitments to the International Council of Museums code of ethics.

Te Papa board chairman Evan Williams said Te Papa had listened to concerns about science collections, and was committed to making sure it cared for its collections "in perpetuity".

Mr Williams said the five people on the panel who would oversee the review were "very, very expert".

"We've given them access to all the relevant data and documents on our structure, they're able of course to video conference and email each other, and we're very happy with the process that's going on."

The experts will carry out the review by going through documents, but not by visiting Te Papa itself.

The documents that will be looked at include the structure of the museum as it is now, and what it could like if the restructure went ahead.

"This is not about opening jars, this is about looking at Te Papa's policies and procedures," Mr Williams said.

He said staff would be briefed on the results of the review over the next month or so.

Fossil expert Trevor Worthy, who had written to the Arts and Culture Minister Jacinda Ardern, expressing his concern about the proposed restructure, said the people on the panel had very strong credentials.

"And certainly would be top people to make such decisions or comment on the current procedures at Te Papa."

Mr Worthy is not surprised the experts would not be flown to New Zealand, as there would be significant cost to bring them in from around the world.

He hoped they would be able to speak to current curators and staff who were physically dealing with the storage and collections.

"I think we can be reasonably confident that they will make a realistic assessment of the situation, the question really arises as to how much Te Papa will take heed of whatever recommendations and suggestions are generated."

The panel is expected to report their findings back to the Te Papa board before the end of the year.

Mr Worthy had had a letter back from associate Arts and Culture Minister Grant Roberston, who had sought assurance from Te Papa that it could fulfil its statutory requirements, and had been told that it could.

The expert panel:

Carol Butler, Chief of Collections and Registrar, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.

Dr Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology, Manchester museum.

Catharine Hawks, Conservation Specialist, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.

Tim White, Director of Collections & Research, Peabody Museum of Natural History Yale University.

Dr Elizabeth Hide, museum consultant, formerly Museum Development Officer, Cambridge Museums Consortium.

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