Review: The Hidden Corners of the Museum tour

Review: The Hidden Corners of the Museum tour

I must admit to being very excited at the prospect of hosting our members on the first of our three behind the scenes tours with Head of Property, Facilities and Security Pete Cunninghame. And I am grateful for his quick precis in Kōrero prior to our departure into the labyrinth byways of Te Papa as we kept a good pace to cover a variety of infrastructure parts which had been due for regeneration and renewal at the time of his arrival 5 years ago – at 20 years of age, parts become difficult to source, and technology has seen great improvements in building systems.

Pete knows his systems, and he has great work stories to share. For example, the cooling towers and chillers which needed replacing ‘died’ just as the replacements came online. We learned about air, about heat, about sprinklers, humidity, fire systems. About lighting, of the Museums’ carbon footprint, boiler rooms and where the expelled air exited. The diesel tanks for the emergency generator, and why that is tested so early in the day! (like many of these necessary systems, noise is a factor).

The decrease of energy consumption and  of carbon footprint is important to Te Papa, so new tech is purchased with this as a priority. There was a noticeable drop in energy requirements after the new chillers were installed. Heating at present is gas fired, making 2/3 of the carbon footprint, so the search is on for tech to replace and reduce this. Once all necessary changes have been completed Te Papa will be good for the next 20 years – the 25th anniversary is nigh.

Since the arrival of covid the fresh air component has risen from 5% to 10%; recycled air at 90%. The air turns over about every 8 minutes with 3 filters giving hospital quality air. The temperature stays between 18-20 degrees, with humidity at 50 degrees, plus or minus 5. Taonga are the deciding factor for this, not we humans. The work stories included security ones, with foiling of theft of donation boxes featuring several times. Hosts played a part in this! We were all fascinated, and the venture onto the rooftop to see the replacement membrane and enjoy the stunning views was the icing on the cake. Rain held off until we left.

Words and images: Sharon Taylor-Offord.