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Strategy looks to make transport museum more relevant

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
MOtata
Emma Whittaker

KIWI INGENUITY: Motat hopes to inspire a new generation of innovators by showing them the science behind inventions like the YikeBike.

Michael Frawley
THE LEADER: Motat chief executive Michael Frawley.

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Changes are coming to Auckland's 50-year-old Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) where management is trying to give it fresh relevance in a modern market.

But old favourites like the trams will not be scrapped.

Motat's new five-year strategy aims to make it more relevant, chief executive Michael Frawley says.

Its visitor numbers are comparatively low, with 270,000 people passing through its gates in 2013, whereas Auckland Zoo attracts around 700,000 visitors each year.

The new strategy comes in response to Dame Cheryll Sotheran's 2012 report which raised a number of concerns about the museum's operation and direction.

"One thing [raised in the report] was that just having a few objects, and some stuff you can maybe take a ride on, is going to have a limited appeal," Mr Frawley says.

"You come along to Motat when you're between 5 and 11 and you think it's a fantastic place because there is lots of things to see and you might get to ride on a tram.

"But once you've done it once, it starts getting a bit boring because you're not learning anything new," he says.

The aim is to take Motat from being "a collection of things" and turn it into a "lightbulb institution", Mr Frawley says.

"We don't want people to come here and see things, we want them to experience it. We want visitors to have that sniff, scratch, smell experience."

Motat will become more of a science museum focusing on Kiwi ingenuity.

Visitors will get to see how historic objects like the penny farthing bicycle gave rise to the electronic YikeBike, or how Richard Pearse's first plane helped inspire modern aircraft.

They'll also get to see the science behind the inventions.

"If kids come through here and see a tram or one of our old objects, and hear these types of stories, they might think 'OK, actually I've got an idea'. Then we're creating the innovators of the future.

"That's what we mean by a lightbulb institution," Mr Frawley says.

The option of a science museum was popular with visitors who were surveyed while the plan was being developed, Mr Frawley says.

"We're keeping all of the old stuff but we're using it in a different way."

A think tank made up of New Zealand innovators including Sir Ray Avery will explore ideas for future exhibitions.

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