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Great War Exhibition to close

Sir Peter Jackson’s World War 1 exhibition will be removed from the Dominion Museum, after Massey University and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage were unable to reach an agreement over extending the lease, which runs out in early December.

The organisations issued a joint statement last night saying The Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum, above the Pukeahu National War Memorial on Buckle Street, will stay open for the Armistice Day centenary celebrations on Sunday 11 November, but will not be extended.

It will close at 6:00pm on 2 December.

The temporary exhibition is a public-private partnership, funded by Jackson, his Wingnut Films company, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Lottery Grants Board, gaming and sponsor ANZ.

More than 400,000 people have visited the exhibition since it opened in April 2015.

However, Ministry of Culture and Heritage officials admitted in November that “expected visitor numbers were ambitious and the expectations on sponsorship did not come to fruition, creating some financial challenges.”

The main attraction touted for the event – The Trench Experience, recreating the Gallipoli trenches – was delivered almost three years late, only opening earlier this year.

The exhibition has been criticised as unimaginative and too expensive.

Military historian Dr Stephen Clarke, writing recently in The Spinoff called it “a mock old-fashioned museum experience”.

A $15 adult cover charge imposed last year saw attendances drop by nearly half.

By contrast the free Te Papa exhibition, Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War has been widely acclaimed for its innovation and imagination and continues to be very popular with visitors.

Installation of The Great War Exhibition into the heritage Dominion Museum building involved the demolition of stone walls.

The cost of restoring the building to its original state could be in excess of $12 million.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says the University was delighted to host the exhibition through an important period in New Zealand’s history, but is excited to be able to once again showcase its College of Creative Arts, including the Wellington School of Design, in the Dominion Museum.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Wellington to share in the fantastic work being produced by our students and staff in the fields of fine arts, creative media production, commercial music, and design. The iconic Grand Hall has been the scene of numerous exhibitions, performances and events for decades and it will be wonderful to have such an outstanding asset back in action for the college.”