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Council Launches New Heritage Marlborough Programme, Withdraws From Marlborough Museum, Brayshaw Heritage Park

Marlborough District Council has decided to accept the Marlborough Historical Society’s (MHS) offer to reset the relationship between the two parties. Following MHS’s request to the Long Term Plan budget, the Council will cease management of the museum site in Brayshaw Heritage Park and vacate the building by 5 July.

Mayor Nadine Taylor said it was a difficult call but by accepting the MHS request the Council could now lead a change of direction for the heritage sector in Marlborough. Council staff will operate under a new Heritage Marlborough brand and focus on supporting heritage organisations across the region.

“Council has a professional and capable heritage management team who can assist our other regional volunteer museums and societies with collection and project management, staff and volunteer resourcing, archive management and promotion. These local museums are the guardians of much of Marlborough’s heritage and their volunteers are the keepers of our stories. It will be pleasing to be able to offer them more of our support.”

“Council has been patient and tried to negotiate in good faith with the MHS representatives to secure a lease or ownership of the Marlborough Museum building since September 2023. However, it appears the current MHS representatives have not really been negotiating in good faith with us.”

“Negotiations have been difficult because each time Council has met with the MHS representatives, their demands have changed. We are not sure they have kept their members accurately informed and I am concerned at the way they may have misrepresented Council’s offers and actions to their members.”

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“Council has quite simply reached the point where trust has been lost and we can no longer work with the current society representatives.”

She noted that the museum building at Brayshaw Heritage Park still requires major investment to bring it up to heritage sector standards.

“Although Council has invested in it over the past year, the building does not yet meet museum standards. I’ve always been concerned that MHS representatives believe it is worth $5 million and want the ratepayers of Marlborough to buy it from them at that price. Council owns the underlying land, and we understand the MHS building’s book value is about $500,000. We were suggesting a professional valuation be obtained. However, MHS representatives were resistant to that suggestion. Council cannot invest ratepayer money based on unrealistic pricing or out of touch expectations.”

Councillors agreed today to a one year operating grant of $40,000 for 2024/25 to the MHS and declined their offer to purchase the museum building.

Looking forward, she said Council staff are excited about the new direction, which will build capability in the heritage sector for the whole district. “Heritage Marlborough will be a vehicle for the Council to fulfil its responsibility under the Local Government Act to protect and promote heritage.”

She noted the new Heritage Marlborough programme includes a major digitisation effort.

“Marlborough is well behind other regions in having their museum collections available online; only one of our museums has material online. One priority for us is digitising the Marlborough Express photographic negatives collection, which spans 1957 to 1998.”

“Prioritising digitisation and digital access to collections will enable the people of Marlborough to see and to share in their own history.”

The Marlborough Museum will close at 3pm on 27 June to enable the current staff to move out of the building. Any questions about the reopening of the museum should be directed to the MHS.

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