Advancing Research at Auckland War Memorial Museum
Future Museum, published in 2012, sets out the Trust Board’s vision for the evolutionary development of the Museum. Looking ahead twenty years, Future Museum places the collections, the audiences for them and a Māori dimension – He Korahi Māori – at the core of a strategy that is based on the Museum's legislation, the Auckland War Memorial Museum Act 1996, and aligns with Auckland's plans.
As inheritors of museum collecting since 1852, we honour the research activities of our predecessors and their role in establishing traditions of scholarly research across many fields. They laid the foundations for many of New Zealand's early international scientific networks and of the multiple understandings of our country's place in the Pacific; they understood the importance of disseminating their insights for others to critique and build on.
As Auckland grows and its population diversifies the Museum intends to match the ambitions and expectations of the people of the city regardless of background or culture. We will continue to invest strategically in research and scholarship, public programmes and digital resources to support, strengthen and sustain the educational value of our broad and internationally-significant collections and taonga.
The collections are primary evidence to answer important research questions about Aotearoa New Zealand's ecology and cultural history. New knowledge is continually derived from them by the Museum's staff and research associates and by external researchers – academics, students and other knowledge seekers. The sum of this activity is providing fresh perspectives on artefacts, taonga and scientific specimens. The information gained is directly helping to advance theory and practice in a range of disciplines and to shape the related works of creative art and literature.
The knowledge value of the collections available for research is increasing steadily. Researchers – whether big 'R' or small 'r' – draw on the wealth of the Museum's collections to advance understandings of the world. The gains are impressive: whether studying significant taonga or artefact assemblages; historic photographs or documentary heritage; identifying new species collected on scientific expeditions; or interpreting or reinterpreting finds from archaeological excavations, the Museum's collections are at the forefront.
Assisted substantially by recent, ongoing investment in digital technologies and practices, the Museum is seeing the first fruits both in terms of the creation of robust digital infrastructure and in the strengthening of the capacities of staff. The release, in June 2015, of close to 1 million collection records online on Collections Online was a highly-significant milestone. That achievement put the Museum among the first rank globally. The step was reinforced by the publication of around eighty Topic Pages highlighting a range of research findings. These tasters were intended to surprise and delight new audiences and to inspire them to undertake their own digital explorations among the treasures cared for by the Museum.
Sharing new thinking with other researchers nationally and internationally through publication is an essential part of the research process. We are pleased to be able to publish scholarly research in our journal, Records of the Auckland Museum, as downloadable files through our website and through J-STOR. Readers are invited to explore both recent and past research and to consider Records of the Auckland Museum as a vehicle for publishing future work undertaken using the collections and documentary heritage of Auckland Museum.
Acknowledging the various digital channels now available, the Museum's collections can reach ever-broader audiences and learners anywhere in the world. I commend the fresh, democratic opportunities that are emerging at last for new research into collections and taonga from widely differing perspectives. These heritage assets are literally priceless, previously inaccessible to most people and, while they have been a source of pride locally, they have remained known in-depth only to a minority.
Our predecessors throughout the past 160 years would be astounded by the reach of the collections they have helped to create; our generation's Future Museum commitment to learning, research and scholarship is the finest way to honour their legacy.
Roy Clare CBE
Auckland War Memorial Museum