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Closing Down Could Be The Museum's Saviour

Jim Chipp

The key to Porirua Hospital Museum's survival is closing down, according to consultant Ken Gorbey. Mr. Gorbey was Te Papa museum team leader and project director of Berlin's Jewish Museum.

He was reporting to the annual general meeting of the Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum at Pataka's Community Room last Tuesday.

The museum houses a collection of artifacts, recording the history of New Zealand's largest mental institution in the dilapidated former hospital's Ward F.

Porirua City Council engaged him to investigate options for the future of the museum and its collection, which till this year has received a $20,000 annual council grant.

Mr. Gorbey says few from the general public visit the museum at its remote hospital location and it is more used by medical students.

It is not really a public museum, and as such should close, he says.

"We want them (the Friends) to reconstitute themselves as a research centre devoted to a better understanding of the whole idea of mental health and the care of these people."

The museum could be anywhere, Mr. Gorbey says.

"But it would be a closed research centre that you book to go to, where the collections are maintained, where serious research is done and archives are built."

The Friends should re-focus their energies on the future of the collection and a separate trust should be formed to deal with the building that houses it, Mr. Gorbey says.

The building's Category A Historic Places Trust listing and the museum's limited tenure in it have combined to prevent its restoration, estimated to cost $450,000.

Mr. Gorbey says the Friends received his report enthusiastically and the next step is to turn in into reality, and he will begin that work next week.

Reprinted with permission from Capital Community Newspapers Limited.

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