Collecting for New Zealand: Examining What the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Should Collect
Collecting for New Zealand explores two interconnected questions: how do history curators at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa decide what to collect; and what do those curators and members of the public think Te Papa should collect. Te Papa’s status as a national museum is important to the context within which decisions are made and opinions formed about collecting. By detailing the actual acquisition process and including the views of museum users, this research makes an important contribution to the literature on museum collecting. This study draws on multiple sources of data to examine history collecting at Te Papa. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with current curatorial staff and focus group discussions were held with members of the public. Current and previous policy documents that influence collecting at Te Papa were also reviewed. These sources combine to develop a picture of collecting at Te Papa which encompasses both specific details of staff practice and a further understanding of what qualities people seek in museum collection items. This thesis provides vital details on the practice and implications of collecting using location, in this case New Zealand, as a selection guide. In examining how staff decide what to collect, concerns expressed in the existing literature about the power of individuals to shape what is acquired are also addressed. The extent to which the views of the general public and those of museum staff are shared is revealed. In developing a fuller understanding of what people think Te Papa should collect, this research contributes to the debate about how to collect in ways that are sustainable. Collecting for New Zealand concludes by reflecting on the importance of audience to Te Papa’s ongoing collecting activity.