PROPERLY cataloguing the vast collection of historic items stored at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) would take an estimated 20 man years of work, manager Paul Horner says.
In a report to the Invercargill City Council (ICC) this month he said there was enough work to keep four staff fully occupied for five years recataloguing, digitising, reshelving and packaging items for protection.
Unless the collection was properly catalogued it could not be moved, and items could easily not be used in exhibitions, he said.
The vast collection included more than one million historic photographs and more than 72,000 catalogue entries, he said. While there was basic information on most items there had been no time or staff to make digital images or compile detailed records, he said.
Digitising items would enable photographs and other material to be shared with the community online, he said.
Mr Horner said when he was appointed ICC building assets and museum manager three years ago he assumed the care of the collection was ‘‘first rate’’.
‘‘But that is not actually the case… A lot of work needs to be done.’’
There are plans to redevelop SMAG’s Gala St buildings, but Mr Horner said recataloguing needed to happen irrespective of whether redevelopment occurred.
The museum also required more operational funding, he said. It ran at a deficit of $94,546 in the nine months to the end of March.
He sought an extra $600,000 per annum to urgently address under funding, saying the money would be used for:
• Two collection technicians
• Two curators ($140,000)
• Training, technology and equipment
• Exhibition development ($100,000)
• Collection catalogue and storage
• Operational budget catch up
Mr Horner said the museum received a grant from the ICC of $619,000 this financial year, and $896,000 from the regional heritage grant, collected across the ICC, the Southland District (SDC) and the Gore District Council (GDC) areas.
Earlier this year it was proposed the increase from $35 to $50 per property, but that did not find favour. The ICC has agreed to increase its heritage rate to $40 per property from July 1 and the SDC will decide soon whether to do the same. The GDC voted against an increase.
The heritage rate money is allocated by the Southland Regional Heritage Committee, chaired by SDC councillor Paul Duffy.
He said not all the money collected went to SMAG, with regular or one-off grants also made to smaller museums and heritage research.
Cr Duffy said he understood Mr Horner’s frustration and sympathised with him.
The heritage committee had cash reserves and Cr Duffy said he would personally support some of that, perhaps $100,000, being allocated to SMAG for shortterm assistance, although he did not know whether other committee members would agree.
Mr Horner said he would like to see the heritage rate to $50 — ‘‘less than the price of three cups of coffee and three sandwiches’’ — to give SMAG the extra $600,000.
He said while he was ‘‘neutral’’ about plans to develop a new museum in the CBD, relocating might be the ‘‘circuitbreaker’’ to solving cataloguing and operational funding issues.
‘‘That might be the key to getting the community to agree to a pathway forward.’’