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OM receives TWO Tuia grants

Otago Museum’s two applications to the Lottery Tuia - Encounters 250 Programme have been successful, netting $370 000 for community outreach programmes aimed at young people.

Dr Ian Griffin, Otago Museum Director, has developed a programme called Ka mua, ka muri, Te Mahutatanga o Takero, Looking Back & Looking Forward, Mercury Rising to mark Mercury’s transit across the sun in September. This rare event coincides with the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s observation of the very same phenomenon.

The programme, a partnership between cultural and scientific organisations across New Zealand, will culminate in a high profile, week-long, nationally coordinated programme of inspirational science activities, including a group of students visiting Mercury Bay to watch the transit with a group of astronomers.

Ka mua, ka muri, Te Mahutatanga o Takero has received $235 000.

Dr Griffin says, “I am really excited that the Otago Museum will be collaborating with a number of organisations across New Zealand on this project. As the sun rises on 12 November, communities across Aotearoa will come together and share the wonder of viewing a rare transit of Mercury across the sun, almost exactly 250 years (to the day) after the astronomer Charles Green saw the same phenomenon from Mercury Bay, alongside Cook.

“It will be a time to reflect on where we have come from, where we are now, and where we will be in 250 years’ time, when another transit of Mercury will also be visible – on the 500th anniversary of first encounter.”

The Museum’s Education team has secured $115 000 for the Tuia 250 Outreach Project, which will focus on themes of astronomy and celestial navigation; Māori culture and technology; early settlement and Te Tiriti o Waitangi; the impact of introduced pests on New Zealand’s biodiversity; and climate change.

A full-time Tuia Educator will be appointed to develop, deliver and evaluate the programme, which will include redevelopment of existing Education programmes for delivery throughout Dunedin in Term 1, and across Otago and Southland in Terms 2 to 4.

Education Manager Dr Kate Timms-Dean says, “The programmes will be based at schools as community hubs, with daytime programmes for school kids and night-time programmes for the wider community, utilising our Starlab portable planetarium, and VR headsets showing Māori and European navigation techniques and life on the ocean, plus telescopes and tablets”.

Another part of the programme will be a “bio blitz” to identify native species living in different locations and the risks to their survival.

Dr Timms-Dean says, “Our aim is to take the programme to more than 3000 people in Otago and Southland, but we think this is a conservative estimate and we’re hoping to double or even triple this. This would be a particularly amazing result for the investment in our next generation.”

Without the Lottery Tuia - Encounters 250 Programme, neither of these programmes would be achievable, and Dr Griffin says, “We’re delighted to receive these grants as it means that we can get our education programmes out into the regions – all around the country. We take our mandate to extend our outreach programmes very seriously. In the last financial year, we’ve taken our programmes as far afield as Niue, the Cook Islands and the Chatham Islands, as well as drawing more than 13 000 children through our LEOTC programmes, so we’re very excited that we can now develop these new programmes and reach even more people.”

“The unique, literally once in several lifetimes, opportunity presented by the transit of Mercury is an unequalled chance to get young people in front of some of the country’s best astronomers – these are potentially life-altering experiences.”

More information about the Fund can be found at https://www.communitymatters.govt.nz/lottery-tuia-encounters/ and about national commemorations of the anniversary at https://www.tuia250.nz/

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