Museum redevelopment ramps up

Canterbury Museum’s epic redevelopment journey is ticking off the milestones with more big strides ahead in the next couple of months.

Canterbury Museum Trust Board Chair David Ayers says the $205 million redevelopment of the Rolleston Avenue buildings will deliver a world-class 21st century museum that celebrates people
and place.

“The redevelopment has given us the opportunity to reimagine and redevelop not just the buildings, but the institution itself,” he says.

The 20th century museum buildings have been demolished, and along with the physical redevelopment, the trust board is undertaking a cultural development journey to develop stronger relationships with mana whenua and the wider communities it serves.

The trust and Ōhākī o Ngā Tīpuna (its iwi advisory group), have named the project Araiteuru – Ara roa. Ara nui. Ara ake rā, translating to: A great journey. An extended journey. A revealing journey.

This draws on the migration traditions of the first Pacific explorers who sailed to Aotearoa in double-hulled waka – waka hourua. Araiteuru will also be the name of the new Māori gallery at the heart of the redeveloped museum.

Construction Progress
Contractors Ceres started work on the site in May 2023, stripping out the interiors before starting demolition in November 2023. The heritage buildings are being protected throughout while the site is being redeveloped.

The 1950s Centennial Wing, which housed the Special Exhibitions Hall, and the Garden Court building, home to the blue whale over recent years, are both gone. The 1970s Duff Wing, which fronted the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, was demolished in late March. The 2010–2011 earthquakes damaged all those buildings.

Museum Tumuaki Director Anthony Wright says the original plan was to salvage and reuse the distinct exterior panels on the Duff Wing. “Unfortunately, when the project team and engineers looked at them more closely on site, they found they weren’t actually panels, but were instead part of the structure-supporting shear wall. This meant they couldn’t be reused,” he says.

“After a detailed review process with Christchurch City Council’s Resource Consent and Heritage teams, we’ve agreed on a replacement finish which will be in keeping with the original facade.”

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