Through our exhibition programme at Tūranga, the library aims to promote literacy and lifelong learning through access to knowledge, ideas and works of imagination and inspiration. From December 2022 to March 2023, we held the exhibition Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi: Everyone has a Story in our Te Pito Huarewa / Southbase Gallery. Showcasing a project such as this is an important way of making available local content and history, and to ensure the preservation and strengthening of community identity and memory for generations. The purpose of Christchurch City Libraries is to connect people, inspire discovery and enrich communities and Everyone has a Story really embodies this vision.
After the exhibition had closed, Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi founder Centuri Chan and project member Sarah Mankelow sat down with Christchurch City Libraries Exhibitions team Louisa and Poppy to discuss what having their exhibition at Turanga meant to them.
What were your aspirations for the exhibition?
Centuri: To raise awareness of the project in the community and increase engagement through offering relevant programming. We also aimed to get more people nominated and to tell their stories.
Sarah: Making sure we included events such as the International Women’s Day event held at Tūranga was also important. That event for example was very successful in celebrating inspiring women and promoting the Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi Project to the wider community.
Do you think those goals have they been achieved?
Centuri: Yes! The exhibition provided an opportunity to celebrate people, their stories and to foster and promote local and community identity.
Sarah: We felt the events, for example the Red Chair Chats in libraries was successful. The promotion of these events was very visible and although not large numbers attended, the quality of the interactions with people was a highlight for us.
We discussed that the gallery in Tūranga may be less known by the general public - and it would be great to promote this exhibition space and its programme wider within the local community.
What was the biggest impact for your organisation?
Centuri and Sarah: The exhibition and related events elevated the profile of a grass-roots organisation. It shone the light on the ‘humans’, and the project whilst also helping to provide some validation for the work the team has done and continues to do, and it shows that it does have an impact.
What feedback did you get from the ‘Humans’ (the people featured on the Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi website) – and from the public?
Centuri: People liked seeing authentic voices portrayed, and celebrating diverse people. The ‘humans’ that came on the opening night of the exhibition really enjoyed being a part of the experience. The exhibition provided an opportunity for the human’s stories to be extended by way of having a physical presence in communities. This took the project to the next level.
Library staff: Yes, our librarians here at Tūranga recognised a few faces of the ‘Humans’ as library customers and commented that they really liked how the text was written from the perspective of the humans. They appreciated how it read as a stream of consciousness and was not edited. This helped it to feel more organic and personalised.
What was it like working on an exhibition with Christchurch City Libraries?
Sarah: Overall it was a great experience and we felt supported by the exhibitions team and wider libraries team who collaborated on the project. For example, the Public Programmes, Web and Marketing teams.
Centuri: It was a lot of work producing the exhibition – and we are all fitting this project in as volunteers into our wider lives. So, we really appreciated the schedules and timelines for the project that the library prepared and that the admin was all covered by the exhibitions team. It was all communicated clearly and helped move the project along. We also enjoyed the flexibility and ability to make decisions quickly.
What does it mean to you to have an exhibition in a public space?
Centuri: It was great to have the opportunity to exhibit the works in a public space – it’s prime real estate for us to show our stories. To have the images framed and presented the way they were, highlighted their physical value and elevated their status. It helped to also recognise the quality of the project and make it feel more tangible.
Finally, how does Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi intend to build on the success of the exhibition?
Centuri and Sarah: We’d love to explore further opportunities to take the exhibit to smaller network libraries – for example mini exhibitions to promote more local community stories. Maybe a pop-up exhibition in a community library. We’d like to target communities who may not have had their stories documented. We also have a book that we are working towards being published!
Library staff: We’ve also chatted about how the library would love to bring some of your images from the exhibition and events into our collection. Canterbury Stories is the digital heritage repository for Christchurch City Libraries, and is home to thousands of images telling the story of Christchurch past and present. Your images and stories would make a important contribution.
Finally, we just wanted to say how much we at Christchurch City Libraries enjoyed working with you and thank you for trusting us with your stories and your exhibition!
More about exhibitions at Tūranga
Find out about exhibitions on at Tūranga
More about Humans of Christchurch / Ōtautahi
- Visit the Humans of Christchurch / Ōtautahi website
- Like Humans of Christchurch Ōtautahi on Facebook
- Follow Humans of Christchurch on Instagram
- Humans of Christchurch exhibition reveals wonder of everyday Newsline, 15 December 2022
Louisa Vowles and Poppy Wallace-Bell
Christchurch City Libraries Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi