What’s going on behind the scenes

What’s going on behind the scenes

There’s been some publicity about Te Papa lately and in particular our commitment to science and the future of the National Collections.  Just so we’re all clear, here are the facts.

Te Papa’s commitment to science hasn’t changed, in fact we are strengthening it.  We have not reduced our numbers of practising and researching scientists or curators.

We have broadened our sciences programme to include physical, earth and technological sciences.

We have also strengthened our curatorial capability and have established six new scientific roles including a new position of Head of Science. We have created three assistant curator positions and senior research positions will also be added as our research programme expands.

All research programmes underway last year remain in place.  We are also refreshing our major natural history exhibits, Awesome Forces and Mountains to Sea, and these will showcase our own scientific research as well as that of our science partners.

In other developments, we have changed the way Library Services operate. We have reviewed our library collection and the material now sits with the departments and curators who use them.  We then offered the remaining material to other institutions like Victoria University.  Any other material which was duplicated or out of scope was offered to staff.  In some instances these publications were unable to be re-homed and were recycled. This was a very small proportion of publications.

The Sciences Library, the Hector Room at Tory Street, is still there and there’s an archive reading room available by appointment.  We also now have a dedicated Sciences Librarian. We will continue to provide a reading room service and research space for the public by appointment at a new location on Te Papa’s Level 4.  That’s due to open at the end of next month.

One final point: the National Collection.  We have a responsibility to take excellent care of it and we take that responsibility extremely seriously.  We’ve been looking at long term storage solutions so that the Collection will be safe in the event of a natural disaster like an earthquake.  We’ve made no decision yet on where that might be, but rest assured our focus is on the preservation and safety of the Collection for future generations.


  1. Andrea,

    “Nothing has been mentioned to dispute the shredding of books and journals – could they not have even been put into storage until sense prevails?”

    As already reported a very small proportion of material was recycled.
    It was assessed with expert input and after exhaustive attempts to give it away. It was material already widely held in NZ and Wellington, it was material that was not within scope of our collections or for which we already had electronic alternatives. Storage space is at a premium so it does not make sense to store material which we already have in another form and which no one else wants………

  2. This is such a gutting, depressing response that does nothing to alleviate concerns. You are undermined completely to say that scientist numbers have not been reduced, while redundant scientists describe their situation.

    Nothing has been mentioned to dispute the shredding of books and journals – could they not have even been put into storage until sense prevails?

    As for the displays, scientific literacy is the most important thing we have and our best hope for the future. I’m astonished and incredibly disappointed that this would be reduced for entertainment, you are after all, purported to be a museum.

    All in all, a complete disgrace.

  3. I would appreciate the author(s) of this article providing numbers of positions declared “disestablished” and what those roles were please.
    With respect to the natural history science positions disestablished I would appreciate an indication of how the public and curatorial services provided by the disestablished staff will now be provided, and what will no longer be, I would also like an indication about how the natural history collections are expected to grow (and thus reflect the “living” state-of-play) thereby providing a basis for research into the future?
    I would also appreciate an indication of the rationale behind the rumoured consideration of sites (well) beyond Wellington for the collections to be housed and how staff and scholar access to those collections can continue to be of the same ease and convenience as at present.

  4. Disposal lists were consistently posted to NZLIBS-Acquisitions listserv and to the ARLIS email group.
    You are not permitted to use the NZLIBS listserv for disposal lists. NBD/NUC has been updated along with the Te Aka Matua online library catalogue. This is in line with correct library process.
    Material in any of the departmental libraries will be available for staff and the public to view in the Reading Room along with a library staff member to assist with the research.

  5. I can’t remember seeing any publications being offered on NZ-LIbs – it is standard practice to do so, is it not ? And does your online catalogue and the NBD/NUC (National Bibliographic Database / National Union catalogue) now accurately reflect what items you hold? So that when local / visiting / external researchers ask to view an item; how quickly could it be retrieved from a ‘departmental’ library, or might the researcher be disappointed and be told you no longer have the item? It appears that the library collection has been dispersed with little thought about what constitutes a research library: the needs of actual and potential researchers as well as care of the library collections…

  6. “We have not reduced our numbers of practising and researching scientists or curators.”
    Are you seriously saying that the reported redundanices don’t count?

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