A Sunrise at Mitimiti (after Hone Tuwhare)April 1st, 2014 By Vicki-Anne Heikell
Taking care of collections can be overwhelming. The National Preservation Office Te Tari Tohu Taonga provides preservation advice and training to iwi, hapū and whānau. This includes marae-based workshops with the aim to provide practical preservation advice so whānau can care for their own collections in their own communities.
Kānohi ki te Kānohi
Recently I travelled to the Tai Tokerau to deliver a preservation workshop in collaboration with Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi.
We were warmly welcomed onto Mātihetihe Marae at Mitimiti; a small coastal settlement nestled between the Hokianga and Whangape Harbours and the Warawara Forest.
Mitimiti may be remote but the local community who keep the home fires burning are special, the landscape spectacular and the history visible and present.
If Mitimiti sounds familiar it may be that you know Hone Tuwhare’s poem, A Fall of Rain at Mitimiti.
E moe, e te whaea: wahine rangimarie
Mountain, why do you loom over us like that, hands on massive hips?...
It is the birth and resting place of Ralph Hotere and the subject of one of his lithographic works Tangi at Mitimiti (1984), inscribed with a poem by Cilla McQueen.
Pai ake te whai kia tika i te tuatahi tēnā ki te whakatika i muri atu
The workshop was held over two days with the NPO presenting the best ways to preserve whānau collections. This included a discussion on storing items in the ‘best’ plastics, which are chemically inert like polyester, polypropylene and polyethylene and to avoid the ‘bad’ PVC plastics for long-term preservation.
However it is the ‘do not laminate’ advice that garners the most sighs as participants recall the items they have laminated in the mistaken belief that it will preserve their item, only to find that it is irreversible and eventually causes damage to the item.
Over the years I have realised that New Zealander’s penchant for DIY extends also to the ‘repair’ of photos, documents and books with Sellotape, electrical insulating tape and masking tape the most popular fix-it materials. Unfortunately these cause lasting damage and staining.
The workshop emphasises that less really is best and better to put an item in a preservation quality folder or sleeve for safe-keeping than attempt any type of repair.
Nāu te rourou Nāku te rourou
An important aspect of the workshop is teaching participants to make preservation quality folders and boxes to protect their collections.
Preservation quality materials are paper, card or board that is ‘pH neutral’, often referred to as acid-free. The workshop participants worked in pairs to construct a made-to-measure four-flap folder for their own items. Measure twice cut once was the catch-cry for this session.
At the conclusion of the workshop participants had made a preservation quality folder for their own item, and their challenge from the NPO was to pass on their preservation knowledge and practical skills to at least one whānau member.
Te Papa photographer Michael Hall’s professional experiences were shared with seminars covering both the theory and practice of taking good photographs from landscapes, to hui and gatherings and portraits. Copy photography was demonstrated using the images and taonga that whānau had brought to the workshop.
A workshop doesn’t just happen and the groundwork and relationship building done by NSTP Iwi Development Officer Gavin Reedy meant the Library and Te Papa were warmly received by the whānau of Mātihetihe marae.
The National Preservation Office is part of the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Outreach Services team, which provides oral history advice and training. We also connect users in the greater Auckland area to Library collections through our online resources.