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May Feature – Natalie Poland

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Natalie is Curator of Pictorial Collections at the Hocken. She took over the position (vacated by Linda Tyler when she moved to The Gus Fisher Gallery at the Universiry of Auckland) in 2006.

“I went to High School and University in Dunedin and left in 1989. My love of Otago was rekindled by a visit to Dunedin in the summer of 2005, so when I heard about the curatorial job opening up, I jumped at it!”

Natalie’s role is varied, encompassing everything from research librarian, exhibition curator, project manager, publication editor, valuer and tour guide.

“I’m the conduit between artists, collection and researchers.” says Natalie. “It’s a very accessible collection and students, curators, collectors and inquisitive visitors come to research specific works or to take a tour of our Pictures storage area.”

The Hocken Collection, now comprising more than 17,000 artworks and artefacts, began in 1910 with a bequest by Dr Thomas Morland Hocken, who wanted his collections (of maps, photographs and publications and ‘pictures’) to be accessible to the public of NZ.

While the collection maintains a historical foundation, a series of significant gifts by Charlton Edgar, Colin McCahon, Charles Brasch and Rodney Kennedy introduced a strong contemporary component. Collection highlights include McCahon’s Virgin and Child Compared, The Song of the Shining Cuckoo and The Wake; and Ralph Hotere’s work, much of it dating from his year as the Frances Hodgkins Fellow in 1969.

To this day, the majority of the collection items result from bequests and gifts. There is a strong personal connection between the ‘gift’ and the ‘gifter’ as the Hocken ensures that artworks and their historical provenance or history remain accessible and can be discovered by future generations.

Natalie explains, “We have a reading room where Donors are encouraged to come to view paintings that have been bequeathed by family members and often family come to visit portraits of their ancestors.”

Being one of only two full-time staff at the Hocken dedicated to the Pictorial Collections, Natalie thrives on the close contact she has with artists on publications, catalogues and exhibitions, including the mounting of an annual exhibition by the current Frances Hodgkins Fellow.

The University of Otago, which administers the Hocken, established the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 1962 and the first Fellow was Michael Illingworth in 1966. Kushana Bush was the 2011 Fellow and the current Fellow is Nick Austin.

More about the Hocken Collection go to: http://library.otago.ac.nz/hocken/index.html

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