Museum Redevelopment

Reimagining our cultural heritage

Museum Redevelopment

The beginnings

Trustees noted that the current long-term display was last refurbished in 2001 and was in need of an upgrade. Discussions around how best to refresh it and the Museum itself led to the setting up of a Redevelopment Project team in April 2015.   This comprised a mix of Trustees, Museum staff, and residents with appropriate skill sets to get a Bulk and Location Plan and Concept Development Plan before Council planning staff.

This team started with vim and vigour but by late 2016 was struggling to get their plans past the Board.  The board allocated funds from the Museum’s reserves to move things forward and new curator Kate Martin was appointed as Project Manager to take the project forward to Resource Consent. Using the outline plans developed by the Project Team, the board sought registrations of interest from architects with experience in designing Museums and similar projects.  Isthmus were selected as the architects and Story Inc were selected for the design of exhibits.

In parallel, the project, which aligned with the Tuia 250 commemorations in 2019, was included in the Tai Tokerau Economic Action Plan as a project which was of signficance to the region’s economic development. This lead to the funding of Howarth ITL to produce a business case and the plans were submitted to Council.

Resource consent was granted in November 2019.

New building designs

Kororāreka Russell has been an area of occupation for many centuries. Oral histories tell us of the earliest arrivals from Polynesia nearly 1,000 years ago, and a fishing village being established on these shores. Early Māori inhabitants welcomed Europeans who settled here in the early 1800s and the seaside village became a hub of trade and commerce due to its deep anchorage. Buildings sprung up on the waterfront, nestled between traditional kaianga (Māori settlements), hotels, warehouses, wharves and churches.  The bustling fishing village became notorious in the Pacific as a den of iniquity.  The quiet colonial village that exists today belies the area’s turbulent past.

In designing a new building located in a Heritage Precinct, the architects drew on the early history of the town, that of an industrious fishing village.  Their challenge was to create an inviting ‘storehouse’ that invites, entices, respects and fits within the Strand Heritage Precinct, its neighbouring properties and celebrates its outstanding location.

The concept draws on the Museum as a container of artefacts of which maritime history are a key focus. A boatshed, as a concept makes  many connections to these maritime stories and waterfront location, relating to both ship building and stores. The clearly defined form, double gabled rooves with smaller openings, timber cladding (vertical and horizontal) relate strongly to the colonial buildings in Russell, in a meaningful way.

Stage 2

With Resource Consent approved, the Trustees needed to turn their attention to the next steps, working on funding for the the project. However, before this could start in earnest, the COVID19 global pandemic and the world changed. Given such a long time had elapsed since the start of the project, the shift in thinking in terms of Te Tiriti and the interest in learning Te Reo and Māori generally, not to mention the impact of the pandemic, the Trustees decided to go back to the Community. In addition, there was a shift in thinking of what a Museum might look like, how it engaged with visitors and what was its purpose. So at the beginning of 2021, a survey was carried of the Russell Community to get their input in what they wanted to see in the Museum and public Library facilities, being part of the Russell Centennial Trust Board’s mandate.

Community Survey

Given the amount of time that had elapsed since the original discussions which had taken place nearly 5 years ago, the Board felt that they needed to go out to the Community to ask for their feedback. It was also important to factor in the impact of the global pandemic and its impact on the overall development In particular, what they felt the role of a  modern day Museum should be, where library, research, cultural story telling with balanced narratives and interactive experiences with an educational focus are becoming best practise. 

Next steps

The survey has clearly indicated that the community wants more access to information about Māori histories, whakapapa, culture and places where people can carry out research in a library like setting. There is also a strong interest in cultural wānanga, learning Te Reo, and the arts. Working in partnership with Kororāreka Marae, there are clearly opportunities to do more.

Many people were interested in getting involved and this is encouraging because this is a project that the community needs to support and get behind if it is to be successful.

Get involved!

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2 York Street,
Russell Kororāreka
Bay of Islands
Aotearoa New Zealand

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(+64) 9 403 7701

Opening hours

10.00 - 4.00 daily
Last visitors admitted at 3.45 pm