The fate of two seagull feathers and a souvenir mug hang in the balance, listed among items to be removed from Rotorua Museum’s permanent collection.
Rotorua Lakes Council’s operations and monitoring committee will decide on Thursday whether or not to recommend to the council to permanently remove 36 items from the currently closed museum’s collection.
The items include clothing and objects beyond repair or with no known connection to Rotorua, such as a 1960s milkshake machine, a dinghy, a bath, a vial of mercury and two seagull feathers.
In a report prepared for the meeting, Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Rotorua Museum director Lizzie Marvelly said the items for deaccession were either not relevant to the region, duplicates of objects already in the collection or in very poor condition.
“The museum offsite storage facility is overcrowded and deaccessioning the proposed objects will give the collections team more space to prepare the collection for display in the reopened Whare Taonga building.”
She said it would also allow the museum to acquire other objects that needed to be preserved for the Rotorua community.
Items would be removed either by returning them to donors, sale, transferring to the education collection or the collection of another museum, or destruction.
She said the museum was “unusual” in that it did not have a deaccessions programme, with only one item – a length of plaited kauri gum ‘hair’ – deaccessioned in 2014.
“As we move towards reopening, however, this is a good time to start a normal, business-as-usual deaccessions programme, as there are objects in our collection that sit outside the scope of our collections policy.
“Over the decades, these objects have built up and are taking up valuable space that should be utilised for taonga, objects, artworks, artefacts and or specimens that fit without the bounds … and are relevant to the Rotorua Te Arawa region.”
In her report, Marvelly noted any costs – likely to be transport costs returning items to donors or their families – were already budgeted for, and were expected to be “minimal”.
Proceeds from sales of any of the items would be retained “for collection purposes”.
Marvelly was announced as the new director of the museum in July 2020. The museum is closed for earthquake strengthening and is expected to reopen next year.
If recommended to the council, the council’s final decision will likely be at its next meeting on 29 April.
The decision will not undergo public engagement but Marvelly’s report noted the museum had consulted with the donors of the objects or their heirs where possible and made “all reasonable efforts” to establish legal title.
The museum will publish its intention to deaccession objects on its website for 30 days, the report said.
Other items likely on their way out:
Some of the below objects are listed among the 36 to be deaccessioned.
In “extremely poor condition” and no known Rotorua history
Two seagull feathers
“These are commonly found objects with no known provenance.”
Two insects from Australia (spiny leaf insect and spider)
No known Rotorua significance
For transferral to education collection or destruction
Used for sea fishing in Ōpōtiki in 1940s, purchased as exhibition prop and then accessioned into the collection.
“This has no known Rotorua significance and the family would like it returned. It uses considerable storage space.”
Vial of mercury
“This is a hazardous substance and has no known Rotorua history”.
Souvenir cup with scene of Te Aroha
No Rotorua significance. “Te Aroha Museum is interested in acquiring”.
Nineteen items of clothing, a walking stick, a record album and a 1960s milkshake machine
“These have little Rotorua significance and are duplicated elsewhere in the collection.”
Local Democracy Reporting