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March 28, 2011 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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The Vault: Neil Pardington 29 January—25 April 2011 City Gallery

Wellington City Gallery presents Neil Pardington’s exhibition The Vault, which provides a behind-the-scenes look into the hidden world of stored collections. This collection of collections allows Pardington’s audience to visit an unseen side of New Zealand public institutions through documentary photography. Human curiosity is well fed in this exhibition.

Pardington’s photographs largely focus on collections of preserved animals. There are even pieces from the Canterbury Museum that feature a bison and various polar bears. Who knew that New Zealand museums have excesses of large, dead animals lying around?

Pardington also looks at collections of taonga Maori. The image of hoards of carvings stored away could be more disturbing for some than the dead creatures, as questions of forgotten cultural treasures come into play and Pardington provides insight into the role of guardianship.

I cannot help but relate these photographs back to scenes from the film A Night at the Museum. There is actually a work that features a troop of mounted monkeys from the Otago Museum, which felt a little bit creepy considering New Zealand is void of monkeys and left me wondering how these little guys got here. It is the magic and mystique of seeing a hidden collection, of getting a glimpse behind the curtain, that allows the imagination to run wild.

If you do get the chance to see this exhibition, be sure to take into consideration the information boards around the gallery or read up on Pardington before you go. This is a fascinating show because of the ideas surrounding our culture of collecting and the treatment of a nation’s treasures. Without that knowledge, it can just be a bunch of photographs of stuffed, dead things. Cool to some, but maybe a little boring for those who are not keen on taxidermy.

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