Du Zhidong

An amazing encounter with Auckland Art Gallery – some notes from a Chinese registrar

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I have been working for the Gallery as an intern as part of the Art and Management Professional and Talent International Exchange Program which was made possible through China International Culture Association. I did not realise how quickly three months would pass when I first landed New Zealand on 15 June. It has been such a rewarding experience which will always remain in my memory.

Dedicated staff and welcoming environment

Back in China, I work for National Art Museum of China in Beijing specialising in the daily management and research of a wide range of collections, which was the focus of my internship at the Gallery. Before I had even arrived in New Zealand, the coordinators demonstrated their professionalism, dedication and, mostly importantly, their kind willingness to help. They had a made a detailed plan and my work at the Gallery was well conducted and followed the plan.

I am especially grateful to Catherine Lomas, Head of the Collection Services, who arranged a number of events to help me understand the overall management and functions of the Gallery in terms of its exhibitions, education programmes, research library, and the other services it offers as a public institution. I was invited to attend staff meetings and quiz night, which made me feel welcome and part of the team. In particular, I was impressed by the transparency, equality and mutual trust that has developed within the Gallery. I felt a strong sense of belonging and experienced the way this supports the Gallery to work.

Learning by doing

I attended a number of training sessions delivered by Gallery conservators working on the conservation of collections of different materials and formats. I was part of the team working on the print room inventory project, sorting out 3,800 print artworks. We audited these records in the Vernon database. Together with colleagues, I partook in the transportation of works to off-site storage spaces.

To be a good registrar and conservator it is important to ‘get your hands dirty’. I was lucky enough to get hands-on experiences of installation and de-installation of several exhibitions curated and organised by the Gallery, for example, Love, Longing, Loss, and The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate. In terms of research, I also got the opportunity to familiarise myself with how conservators draft condition reports and how the Gallery deals with copyright royalties and long-term loans, which allowed me to compare and contrast different practices in our countries.

Learn from the best practices

Based on such rich experiences, I have a useful understanding of how the Gallery manages its collections, particularly the methods, tools and procedures it uses. The Gallery has state-of-the-art facilities to manage its collections. It is not mere digitalisation or technology, but based on modern management concepts and best practices. I am particularly impressed by the preventive conservation measures I witnessed. In my opinion, collections are the life-blood of every gallery and museum. It is crucial that the collections are well managed to form a firm base for other projects and functions to flourish. Auckland Art Gallery has done a great job and, based on my experience both in New Zealand and China, excels in what it does.
Three months’ close encounter with the Gallery has offered me more than just a taste of how successful it is as the largest art gallery in New Zealand. I fell in love with the place the moment I arrived – not to mention the people I was fortunate enough to work with. They are very kind and helpful. It really was these people who made my stay at the Gallery the most fruitful and rewarding experience I have had in my life so far. I hope to see some of my new New Zealand colleagues in Beijing sometime soon. And I look forward to seeing more cooperation between Auckland Art Gallery and National Art Museum of China across different levels.


中国美术馆 杜志东

当第一次站在Kitchener street街头感受奥克兰美术馆新旧建筑的独特气质时;当第一次穿过贝壳杉木门柱开始沉浸于新西兰艺术的多元魅力时,我真切地感受到这里的一切正在讲述着这个国家的过去、现在乃至将来。本土与现代——这就是我眼中的奥克兰美术馆!