Katherine Mansfield House closed for renovations
May 21, 2019
Thorndon’s Katherine Mansfield House and Garden is being renovated to better reflect Mansfield’s later life with the possibility of an interactive app to connect her writing to the space.
The house’s gardener, Frank Jansen, said he wanted to interpret Mansfield’s writing about the house and garden, in innovative, interactive ways. He wanted to collaborate on creating an interactive app, which visitors would be able to use to make connections between the space and references to it in Mansfield’s writing.
Jansen said in one piece of writing Mansfield mentioned seeing blue lilies in the garden. He said he puzzled over this for some time as they had not yet been introduced to New Zealand. He realised that she must have been describing white lilies, which she was seeing through a blue-stained glass window. He believed she may have been looking at her garden from a neighbour’s house across the street which, today, still had the window.
Jansen wanted to use details like this to create experiences for visitors that referred directly to Mansfield’s writing. He suggested building a viewing station where white lilies could be looked at through blue glass, so visitors could see them as Mansfield had.
Redevelopment project co-ordinator Catherine Manning said the overall Victorian look of the house would be maintained, but the redevelopment would “be more about Katherine Mansfield’s later life as a writer and the person she became, rather than a museum which focuses on her Victorian childhood”.
She said the final look was still part of an ongoing process. The house had received funding to do some “badly needed” maintenance, such as replacing the roof, re-painting the exterior and installing a heating system, Manning said.
The house got so cold in the middle of winter that “apparently they have had visitors leave”, she said.
Temperature control would create better conditions for preserving both the building itself and the museum’s collection.
Manning said she hoped the redevelopment would bring more people into the house, and raise awareness about Mansfield.
The house closed for renovations on April 26 and was due to reopen in September.