The year was 1997 and Te Papa was about to open on the waterfront. Two buildings waited in the wings, Buckle St, the then National Museum and Tory St, the soon to be collection store and science facility.
At the time the buildings were in a state of flux. Still clinging to the memories of their last tenants, they offered glimpses of their past use. Buckle St’s faded Deco charm with a sniff of the old school museum, Tory St, the then public works depot with its brutal 70’s architecture and overblown facilities, somehow more reminiscent of the Eastern Bloc than New Zealand.
Visually these transient spaces provided interesting vistas and a freedom to explore that was somehow missing when the buildings were fully functional. The wrapped objects gave of an air of mystery and the discarded models appeared like marooned ships in the middle of the now empty exhibition spaces. At Tory St the architecture took on a sculptural quality and the question of ‘Who was Peter?’ and ‘What did Neil do?’ was raised, more mystery.
With the National museum about to celebrate its 150th anniversary it seem’s timely to look back at two of the spaces which helped shape the National collection and how it was seen.
What attracts us to these temporal spaces?
I think it’s a mix of nostalgia and the realisation that everything changes.