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Museums Aotearoa Calls For Museums And Galleries To Remain Freely Accessible, Safe Spaces For Everyone

13 December 2023

Museums Aotearoa is emphasising the need for museums and galleries to remain freely accessible, safe spaces for everyone following a vandalism incident at Te Papa this week.

On Monday at midday, members of protest group Te Waka Hourua entered level 4 of Aotearoa’s national museum and damaged a wooden display panel depicting the English version of te Tiriti o Waitangi, using spray paint and an angle grinder.

The protest action has raised questions about how the group was able to enter the building and deface the exhibit without being stopped by security or other museum staff.

Adele Fitzpatrick, chief executive of Museums Aotearoa, says while protest is a healthy part of democracy, there is no excuse for vandalism.

“There are many strongly held opinions about how history and stories are presented in Aotearoa’s museums and galleries – and that’s the point,” she says.

“Exhibitions should stimulate learning, discussion and debate.”

Fitzpatrick affirms museums and galleries as essential, safe and welcoming spaces in New Zealand’s communities.

“It’s important we find a balance between security measures that protect our visitors, staff and exhibitions while preserving museums as places of freedom,” she says.

Fitzpatrick notes museums and galleries must be funded properly and sustainably by central government.

“The challenge is ensuring museums and galleries are funded in a sustainable way to allow for exhibitions to evolve along with our views on historical events.”

She adds any changes to security measures at museums and galleries must not detract from staff wages or exhibition or educational budgets.

“The sector cannot absorb these additional costs.”

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