Monday, 14 January 2008

2008 First Day Back

So - it is here - a bright and sunny Auckland morning for the first day back at work after the summer holidays. Feels like an age since I have been at the office desk - fingers a little reluctant, mind a little unfocused.

It was a fine holiday, including a trip up to the Bay of Islands and the lovely little town of Russell, aka Kororareka. Once the 'hell hole of the pacific', it was 'a lawless trading centre where whalers, seafarers and merchants mixed with adventurers, deserters and escaped convicts from Australia.'

Now it's a picture perfect small New Zealand town whose history regularly interrupts your holiday as you promenade along the pathway that scirts the edge of the water.

The Pompallier house definitely had something to say. It is New Zealand's oldest surviving Roman Catholic building. Built in 1841-42 by French Catholic Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier as the printery, tannery and storehouse for the French Marist mission.
The house is one of the very few examples of of pise de terre (rammed earth) on the ground floor and pan de bois (rammed earth panels in a kauri framework) on the upper floor. Once built, the Marists set up a printing press and were one of the first to publish texts in Maori.

This press is back in situ, and the rooms now decked out as they might have been in 1840, including a whole bunch of bookbinding implements and tools from the period. Actually the same tools can still be found in any amateur bookbinders bench, something I know because my dear old Dad, George Reynolds ,was one of this gentle breed.
He used to 'let me help' when I was a wee boy. So for me, touring Pompallier House gave me my own bitter/sweet 'voyage round my father'.

He also loved his garden so he would definitely have enjoyed looking through the vegetable and fruit garden, which is another feature of the restored house.

Back along the strand you come to the Russell Museum. This is quite a small place, the collection on display concentrating in the main on the early history of Russell, especially the sailing, and of course, lots on the relationships between local Maori and the new settlers.
I'm told they are making progress digitising their collection and are starting to think about how to to use digital to integrate the best of their physical collection with local community memory.

However, being a small, essentially regional museum with limited resources, albeit a huge cultural footprint, they, like many institutions of their size are still trying to figure out the tactical and resource implications of their ambitions. In short, maybe they need some help to figure it out.

The NZ Museums project, currently in development by Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi NZMuseums might be of interest to them. Basically its a big rework of their current web site. The current one is pretty basic limiting itself to a directory featuring 358 museums.

National Services Te Paerangi, in partnership with Vernon Systems Limited, has been exploring how this website could be redeveloped to allow museums to place collection objects, images, exhibitions and events information online, similar to websites such as and

The idea is that the new site will help small to medium-sized museums, which may be unable to afford to do this themselves. It has been designed with their needs in mind, but still allows larger institutions to contribute content.

And just for the record Vernons has asked McGovern Online to do the design - so I guess I should declare an interest.
That said, I think it is a great initiative, and a really good example of how 2008 can be the year when big frameworks/ institutions start thinking on how to help / assist / partner with smaller frameworks/institutions to create compelling joint ventures based on a common pursuit of excellence.


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