Maximum Intervention: Renewal of a Maori Waka by George Nuku and National Museums Scotland

Charles Stable


National Museums Scotland (NMS) has in its collections a Mäori war canoe (A.UC.767) or Waka Taua from New Zealand. The Waka had been held in the Museum stores for many years and due to its incompleteness and poor state of repair had not been on public display. It was proposed that the Waka be restored with the intention of it being a focal point of a new permanent gallery in the Royal Museum in Edinburgh dedicated to South Pacific cultures and communities. The gallery was being developed as one part of a £44 million redevelopment of Royal Museum building. Due to its poor condition assistance was sought to help in the restoration, reconstruction and visual interpretation of the Waka. NMS commissioned George Nuku, a Mäori carver, to remake  missing parts. Nuku uses a variety of mediums to carve including Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA). This made a clear distinction between new and original material that could be easily read by the public and reflected Nuku’s conceptual vision of creating physical “ghosts” influenced by the original carvings. Due to the composite construction and condition of the canoe the  project became more complex and  involved. This paper describes how the renewal was done and relationships that developed between the artist, curator and conservator.

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How to cite: Stable, C 2012. Maximum Intervention: Renewal of a Maori Waka by George Nuku and National Museums Scotland. Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies 10(1):8-18, DOI:

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Published on 9 May 2012.

ISSN: 1364-0429 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.