Kōrero Kākahu: The Attic

Kia ora! This past weekend my little family and I toddled off to see the re-developed floor of our local museum. As a bit of background, Wellington Museum has had previous incarnations as a Maritime Museum and most recently as the Museum of Wellington City and Sea. MOWCAS was a real mouthful of a name so to see the more direct name is a relief, it is also a reflection of the extensive deaccessioning project that has seen the collections of Wellington Museum take on an exciting, new and unabashed Wellington-centric slant by divesting itself of some of the collection objects that do not fit the geographic focus. With this new collection focus came the opportunity to create a Wellington-focused exhibition space. Enter, The Attic.

From the museum’s facebook page

The Attic has a “curio cabinet” aesthetic which I really love as a way of re-visiting the historic stories in the collection; there were so many nooks and crannies to explore and so many interactive aspects to the displays that it kept my whole family entertained. Also, when it came to the displaying of clothing, I was pleasantly surprised to see them arranged in what I would call ‘active’ display (as opposed to passive). That is probably best illustrated by the costume display featuring garments and props from the movie “What We Do In Shadows“. I apologise for the quality of the photographs but there was so much light from multimedia displays that it was difficult to get a shot, the price you pay for entertainment I guess.


The composition of the mannequins mimics the way in which the characters were photographed in a lot of the media relating to the film. Also, given that the movie was about flying vampires, having one of the mannequins suspended seems like a natural fit as it gives life to the clothing. Being a regional museum featuring a regionally-made film by homegrown stars imbues this display with unabashed pride at the Wellington-ness of it all and I’m sure it will be a huge drawcard to the exhibition. In great contrast to this display, opposite it is a case featuring a display of Wellington pride of another kind:


The t-shirt in this case was a direct response to a new road that was built through one of Wellington’s inner suburbs in the middle-2000s. Given the city’s creative culture and reputation as home to many artists, makers and creators, one way in which protest manifested was through these widely available t-shirts and pictured is one by fashion designer Laurie Foon who had two clothing lines at the time. What was doubly distressing for the creative community is that the street the bypass was proposed to cut-through was one of the creative centres of the city, an area in which cottage industries had a home. It’s sad to say that the bypass did go ahead some 10 years ago now but luckily, the creative heart of Wellington still beats. Seeing this case was such a visceral reminder of my early university years, where I was outraged by the development but now, 10 years later the bypass is just part of daily life, so I loved being able to see that imagery and allow it to take me back in time to the days where I would skip class and pound the pavement for good cause.

Another case I’d like to focus on features the swimsuit and accessories from multi-medal winning swimmer Mary Fisher.


Featuring the same towel in the case that is in the photo from the exhibition label is a nice touch. The inclusion of it is also great as it illustrates the other kind of objects that contribute to an athlete’s success. From the label I learnt that Fisher has a genetic sight disability and to ensure equality in sight, all swimmers wear googles that are completely blacked out. 

This exhibition really illustrated the diverse communities that make up Wellington and the different ways in which success is realised. It definitely made me immensely proud to call this wee city home.

A note on my column title: Kōrero Kākahu translates very literally from Māori to English as “talk of clothing” but can also be read as the stories gleaned from clothing or the stories that clothing holds. Future columns, particularly those that cover Māori content, may delve into this meaning a little deeper.


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  • Paul Thompson November 29, 2015 04.22 pm

    Great review thank you! Small correction in that the Museum’s deaccessioning project is not about removing maritime objects – rather it is about removing objects that have no connection to the Wellington Region. So whether it’s a model of the Titanic or the 1st Mayor of Auckland’s top hat, if they don’t fit the geographical criteria, they are offered first back to the donor and then to another museum.

  • Matariki Williams November 30, 2015 02.22 am

    Kia ora Paul, thank you for the comment, I have amended the sentence above. Ngā mihi, Matariki


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