Lilli Scott, a current Year 13 student, was announced last night as the senior winner of a youth essay competition created by Taonga Tauranga to encourage youth to voice their thoughts on having a museum on the city’s proposed Cliff Road site. Lilli’s efforts awarded her the $1000 first prize.
The competition was judged by Jan Tinetti, Labour MP for Tauranga, and attracted many entries from across Tauranga’s secondary schools. Lilli’s essay, titled “Tauranga’s Modern Museum” provided a thoughtful approach to this community issue as the Council’s referendum approaches. Below is Lilli’s prize-winning essay.
Define their idea of a modern museum, and justify why Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty would benefit from it.
For many a museum is a place of sanctuary; somewhere to absorb the wisdom of those who have come before us and adulate the beauty of the past. For others, a museum may be a place in which horrors are revealed and emotions are raw. However, despite the individual connotations in what these building may have for us, it is a necessary resource. The first known museum dates back to 3rd century BC. Despite the wars, destruction, and ‘progress’ that we as humankind of made, museums as a concept has survived. Today, they are a global phenomenon, present in every country in the world. Evidently, for a sound reason. History provides the lens through which we view today. Without our ability to write the narrative of the past; we may never learn from it. It is within the mere walls of a museum that we are able to grapple with the conditions of man’s existence.
The term modern juxtaposes against the idea of a museum. Some may deem this an oxymoron. When observing the past, we endeavor to stray from succumbing to presentism. This statement arguably implies that this is the trap in which we are falling into. Yet, it is through this illuminating contrast that we are able to redefine traditional role museum in society. Historically there has been a sense of hegemony in the telling of the past. Thus, this has been reflected by the strata of individuals who visited museums. However, as the world is becoming more progressive and uncovering the accounts of an infinitely diverse group of people, this is changing.
Modern museums must reflect the perpetually developing nature of our world. They must be revisionist in scope and should promote ongoing conversations. They should be responsive to mirroring our society, acting an as a vehicle in which the past is transported and brought to the forefront of our attention. To do this, it is paramount that we create a more collective narrative. We cannot in good conscience, showcase a significant event from one group’s perspective. The total inclusion of experiences and accounts must be upheld. This will ensure that we are preserving our shared cultural heritage as a community. As this is what materialises within the fabric of New Zealand society.
The role of a visitor should be rekindled and reshaped in a modern museum. Each person interpreting the information within their own personal context and experiences. Throughout the process of discovering the museum visitors should have ample opportunities to question and reflect on their own dogma and values towards the content. To feel connected to their haukāinga, their home. A modern museum creates a more active role in which contemplation is routine. This interpretation of the past is of utmost importance. It is the visitors, the ‘everyday’ people, who can act as agents of change and foster peace in society.
Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty would fundamentally benefit from a modern museum through education. As is so often said, “it is through the past that we learn from the future”. Although this has become a very cliche statement, it is unequivocally true. History is too often a cyclical process in which the tension between same beliefs leads to the same disastrous results. If we are aware of these results, we are able to make better decisions both now and for the future. Furthermore, we are able to see how far we as a society have progressed (or not) from the past. Allowing us to ensure that the wars that were fought by our ancestors, are the basis of systematic shifts that occur in the twenty-first century.
The relationship between the Tauranga community and our heritage would be exponentially strengthened by an establishment of a museum. New Zealand is a melting pot of different cultures and in order to live in unity we must accept and understand each other. The museum would act as a tool in exposing the community to their past in a positive way. Allowing us to live as different people, of different cultures in harmony. For many, culture may seem an intangible and un-contextualised concept. Particularly when the factual aspects of our past are not extensively known. A modern museum in Tauranga would assist in the path of discovering our own heritage. It would also assist in intensifying our empathy through the experience of immersion. We would be able to feel and understand to feel the emotions of those who have come before. This would create a heightened sense of pride in the achievements of our forebearers and the place that we call home.
Throughout our exquisite city, we have a plethora of culturally significant places. From the Otumoetai Pa, or the Te Ranga Battle Site and Saint George’s church at Gate Pa; the Bay of Plenty is a hotspot for gripping and complex history. However, as these places are distributed throughout the region, it is hard for one to comprehend the genuine gravity of our culture. Therefore, having this invaluable information compiled in one place would make Tauranga history more accessible. Ensuring it becomes more widely and deeply felt in the community. Representing the true tapu nature and mana of our area.
It was Michael Crichton who said “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”. We associate this symbol with knowledge and strength. Although the tree of Tauranga’s history is relatively young, it is of huge significance and beauty. We must not let our rooted be seldom known. Individually we may be a mere leaf, but collectively we are the bright evergreen narrative and the life of Tauranga.
Lilli Scott: Aquinas College, Year 13.