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James Cameron – Challenging the Deep heading for Dunedin


Tuesday 28 May 2019

James Cameron – Challenging the Deep heading for Dunedin

In what is undoubtedly a significant coup for New Zealand, Otago Museum has secured exclusive New Zealand rights to host the blockbuster exhibition James Cameron – Challenging the Deep.

Developed by the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney in collaboration with the Avatar Alliance Foundation, James Cameron – Challenging the Deep takes visitors to the depths of our oceans through the lense of Cameron’s underwater cameras, and his other incredible technological innovations that have made it possible to explore some of the most mysterious parts of our planet.

Dr Ian Griffin, Otago Museum Director, says, “This year, we remember some truly significant exploration-related anniversaries – 250 years since James Cook’s first contact with tangata whenua, 50 years since the moon landing, Sir Edmund Hillary’s 100th birthday – as well as the Museum’s own 150th anniversary. With this in mind, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to inspire a whole new generation of explorers by bringing this world-class exhibition to Dunedin.

“Our city has been jumping off point for some great voyages of exploration – Dunedin was the port of departure for Scott, Shackleton, and Byrd. And, of course, we believe that Dunedin is itself an amazing place to explore. This immersive exhibition about a modern-day explorer presents a perfect opportunity for people from all over New Zealand to explore Dunedin.”

Kevin Sumption, Australian National Maritime Museum Director, says, “It was a delight for our creative team to have worked directly with James Cameron and the Avatar Alliance Foundation to build this exhibition, which has proved to be a tremendous success for the Australian National Maritime Museum. It is time to share it with the world, and we are thrilled that New Zealand, through our friends at Otago Museum, will be the first stop on what we hope will be a long and successful international tour of this spectacular exhibition.”

Cameron has had a lifelong fascination with the deep oceans. He has led eight major deep-sea expeditions and completed numerous submersible dives, setting world firsts including the first solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the first exploration of the interior of the wreck of RMS Titanic, and the first seafloor-to-surface live broadcast.

Cameron’s expeditions, in collaboration with oceanographic and scientific institutions, have documented the shipwrecks of RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck, explored deep ocean phenomena, such as black smoker hydrothermal vents, and discovered new species from the lowest point on earth. They have been chronicled in his documentaries and now, for the first time, in an exhibition.

James Cameron says, “It’s working with people, solving problems, having our machines work in the depths, where a critic’s whim means nothing, where only absolute laws of physics apply, that gives me deep satisfaction. Challenging the Deep allows me to bring people with me on some of my journeys of discovery.”

Otago Museum is partnering with NIWA, New Zealand’s largest provider of ocean science, to stage the exhibition. John Morgan, NIWA Chief Executive, says, “Our research takes us into the domain visualised so beautifully in this exhibition. It is exciting to see James Cameron shine a spotlight on this rarely seen, but hugely important, environment.”

The Otago Community Trust, Mediaworks and the Otago Daily Times have also committed their support to the project. These partnerships with some of New Zealand’s best-loved organisations will enable the public to experience some of the most innovative exhibition design to come to the city.

Otago Museum Exhibitions Designer Shanaya Allan and Facilities Officer Garry Gibson will be working closely with the original design team to fit the large-scale installation into the Museum’s Special Exhibitions gallery. Miss Allan says, “This is a very different style of exhibition to ones we’ve produced previously, and it’s really exciting to be working with an international team to bring it here.”

The Dunedin City Council is also supporting the exhibition through its Enterprise Dunedin and Community Development and Events teams, with family entertainment planned to support the opening.

Nick Dixon, DCC Group Manager Ara Toi, says, “Dunedin City Council is delighted to support Otago Museum in celebrating this important exhibition. Families and schools throughout Dunedin and Otago will enjoy this fascinating and entertaining insight into the science and drama of exploration, as will visitors to our city from across the country and overseas.”

Dr Griffin says, “Celebrating the life and work of one of the world’s most notable filmmakers, as well as an explorer, is also a nod to the healthy growth of the city’s screen sector. Residents of Dunedin and visitors to the city can expect to be immersed in all aspects of Cameron’s world, from the deepest oceans to his marine-focused movies.”

The exhibition opening will be marked with a gala event on Saturday 20 July and will be open to the public from Sunday 21 July, with a full day of public programmes in planning. It will remain open until mid-February when it departs for the next leg of its global tour.

A brief timeline

10 June – first of three containers arrives on site (these will be lifted by crane into the Museum from the carpark on Cumberland Street)
17 June – installation commences, following acclimatisation
24 June – object installation begins
8 July – installation complete, technical checks
20 July – opening function
21 July – exhibition opens to the public, public programme in and around the Museum
9 February – exhibition closes

About James Cameron – Challenging the Deep

Visitors enter the exhibition through a recreation of a MIR submersible to encounter a single immersive environment of cinema presentations, rare artefacts, and specimens from Cameron’s career as an active explorer and filmmaker.

The exhibition includes the technical innovations Cameron developed to make the pioneering underwater feature film The Abyss in 1988, including the unique diving helmet he wore during the shoot, alongside the original maquettes of the Pseudopod and the alien Manta Ship from this classic science-fiction feature film.

Visitors watch as Cameron explores the wreck of RMS Titanic on three expeditions and can see models, hand props and costumes from his blockbuster film Titanic. Highlights include the dress worn by Kate Winslet’s character Rose, the boarding outfit worn by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack, the iconic “Heart of the Ocean” necklace, and Jack’s sketches, which were drawn by James Cameron himself.

Visitors vicariously accompany young scientists on some of their 43 dives with Cameron on his Aliens of the Deep Expedition to examine thriving deep ocean life, spectacular volcanic vents, and geology that unlocks the potential secrets of life on other planets. And, from Expedition Bismarck, they watch survivors of the battleship revisit the last resting place of their comrades and their giant warship.

Finally, visitors will voyage with Cameron to the deepest known point of the earth’s surface on his historic solo dive more than 10,000 metres down to the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench in the revolutionary Deepsea Challenger submersible Cameron designed and built in secret in Sydney and California.

The exhibition includes artefacts from the design development of the vessel, specimens collected on its expeditions, and the Explorers Club flag and Rolex watch he took with him on the history-making solo voyage to the deepest part of the ocean.

James Cameron – Challenging the Deep

Special Exhibitions gallery, Otago Museum

Open to the public from 10am, Sunday 21 July

Tickets: Adult $17.50, Concession $14.50, Child $9.50, Family $45.50

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