Attic revamp puts more treasures on view

17:00, Jun 06 2014
 Museums Wellington director Brett Mason
EXPANSION TIME: Museums Wellington director Brett Mason holds a fob watch donated by the Blundell family.

Wellington Museum of City & Sea is hitting the roof to make room for more items.

A planned $3.8 million upgrade at the museum will create an extra exhibition floor in the waterfront building's attic.

The project is the first stage of a long-term $13m plan to upgrade the museum by 2020, including a cafe and bar and opening up more space on the existing three floors to display more of the city's collection.

face carving
LEADING MAN: The identity of this man is unknown, and the carving is among items being brought out of storage when the Museum of City & Sea adds an extra floor.

Items being brought out of storage include the centrepiece for the new attic exhibitions, an original clockface from the Town Hall.

The clock was donated to the city by Evening Post owner John Blundell, and was later shifted to the fire station due to earthquake risk.

A fob watch gifted by the clock maker to Blundell's grandson Crayley, who started the clock in 1923, will also feature.


A Wellington volunteer fire brigade uniform, circa 1867, and a carved wooden sculpture of Edward Wakefield from about 1880 that sat atop the Old Identities Hotel are among other items being brought out of storage.

Museums Wellington director Brett Mason said opening the attic would add about 250 square metres of display area.

It was hoped the new floor would open in July next year, as part of celebrations for 150 years of Wellington being New Zealand's capital city.

The Museums Trust, a Wellington City Council-controlled organisation, will put about $900,000 towards the project.

The trust has also received a $930,000 Lotteries environment and heritage grant.

It had put in a request to the council for $1.4m, and would be fundraising for the rest, Mason said.

The funding would help pay for developing the floor, encasing a stairwell for access, and extending the museum temperature controls.

Council economic growth and arts committee chairwoman Jo Coughlan said it was "a solid proposal", and the council would be considering whether or not to fund it after a review of its capital expenditure, which would highlight any available funds.

The council was likely to view the proposal "favourably", but there would probably be public consultation before a decision was made, she said.

Mason said the attic was the first stage in a plan to refurbish the entire museum by 2020, with an estimated total cost of $13m.

The move comes after the museum was named in the top 50 museums in the world last year.

The project was planned before that accolade, which helped support the argument for it because "we're on a bit of a run", Mason said.

"Museums don't stand still and our role is to bring more stories of Wellington to Wellingtonians and their visitors."

The changes would open up more space, as well as creating a cafe and bar on the ground level.

The trust planned to refine its collection across all its museums and go from having 5 per cent of items on display to having about 90 per cent out.

"Ultimately the goal is to have more on display."

At the Museum of City & Sea it was hoped to boost visitor numbers from about 100,000 to up to 130,000 a year by the end of the development, while also keeping the doors open as much as possible while work was done.

The Dominion Post