Meeting a ‘start’ on museum’s future

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by Claire Allison

Do not close your mind to anything – anything could be possible.

That was the message from South Canterbury Museum director Philip Howe at a meeting last week to discuss long-term plans for the museum.

About 30 people at the meeting were urged to share their views with the Timaru District Council as it prepared to work on its long-term plan, the 10-year planning document.

 

“This isn’t carving anything in stone. It’s a start.” – Philip Howe

Mr Howe said this early phase gave people the chance to think about issues the council would be looking at, including future development of the museum, and the council’s other cultural facilities – the library, Aigantighe Gallery and the Theatre Royal, all of which required significant investment.

Options to consider could include combining two or more of those facilities on one site, developing each facility on its existing site, or, in the case of the museum, taking inspiration from other centres such as Nelson and Whakatane and retaining Pioneer Hall for storage and “out-the-back” functions, while developing gallery space in a high-profile location.

Mr Howe said a 2014 feasibility study suggested options including extending Pioneer Hall to Perth St, demolishing the existing building and re-building on the site, or developing on a new site.

“But if you develop a new site, it has to be better than where you are now.”

Costs for those options started at about $10million, and Mr Howe said that money was not in the budget.

He said most successful developments required a mix of funding – ratepayer and community sources.

“The issue for council is, what do you actually want to do.

“We have to look at what’s in the best interests of the museum, for our community and visitors to our district. What’s going to be best for us? The most realistic for us?

“This isn’t carving anything in stone. It’s a start.”