Why We Collect Wellington

By Ian Wards

Have you seen the images of two of our recent acquisitions on the shipping containers outside Wellington Museum?

There’s a smashed hard drive donated by investigative journalist Nicky Hager and a detail from the artwork Te Whanganui-a-Tara by Xoë Hall. Wellington Museum is not just a museum of old things, we actively collect things that tell the stories of the people of Pōneke.

Wellington Museum, with images of Nicky Hager’s broken hard drive and a detail of Xoë Hall’s artwork Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

These objects reflect different aspects of Wellington’s rich recent history. The hard drive was hit 213 times by a police inspector after a High Court decision that a raid on his home by police in 2014 had been illegal. Police copied Hager’s files onto the hard drive but didn’t want him to access other content on it, so in a fit of pique, made a mess of it before handing it back to the surprised and bemused journalist.

Wellington Museum commissioned Xoë Hall to paint the artwork Te Whanganui-a-Tara to visualise the creative energy of Wellington, the atua Māori and natural forces that energise our place. Commissioning this artwork also gave us an opportunity to preserve something of the cityscape which Xoë has helped create. Her distinctive mural artworks which cloak our city might not survive the decades, as weather, vandalism and building changes see them slowly disappear.

Wellington Museum, in the Bond Store on the waterfront, is one of the city’s oldest buildings and was once a maritime museum. We still have a strong maritime collection, but in recent years we have actively collected Wellington things that express the creativity and innovation of Pōneke.  I argue that in the case of Wellington, its golden age was the period after 1990 when the vibe around the Absolutely Positively Wellington campaign saw the city reinvigorated and transformed into the creative capital it still is. We collect things that express this along with things from all periods in our history.

The We Collect display at Wellington Museum with the Te Whanganui-a-Tara by Xoë Hall in the background.

Next time you visit, have a look at our display of recently acquired things. Under the theme We Collect Wellington, you’ll see the hard drive, an umbrella donated by Dame Catherine Healy – a symbol of visibility for sex workers, the unwieldy Poly 1 computer made by the staff and students of Wellington Polytechnic in 1981 and a hockey stick, teddy bear and towelling sunhat donated by the Manning family of Tawa.

Our challenge is to reflect the diversity and richness of Wellington’s social history, but we can’t do this alone. We’re collecting for future generations to ponder and enjoy. So, if you have things that are interesting or insightful, with poignant or funny stories associated with them, get in touch with us to see if they might be right for Wellington Museum’s collections.

We’ll be changing the We Collect Wellington display in a couple of months, so come and have a look at the current objects while you can. The next display is under wraps, but I can say it will be a real Buzz.

Contact us at [email protected]

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