Stage “rigging” is taking on a whole new meaning at the Civic Theatre this week. The sails from KZ1, the yacht built to challenge for the 1988 America’s Cup, are being unfurled and photographed in all their 1,600m2
glory by the New Zealand Maritime Museum’s Digitisation Project team.
KZ1 (formerly New Zealand) was aquired by the museum in 1990 and is currently on display outside the iconic Auckland venue in the Viaduct. The
sails, however (all 20 of them) have been in storage for more than 30 years, hidden from public view.
Maritime Museum Collections Specialist, Nicholas Keenleyside, says this is a common scenario in the museum world.
“In most museums, a large part of the collection is not on display at any one time due to space constraints, exhibition
requirements or the condition of the objects themselves. Digitisation plays a key part in making collections accessible
to the public and researchers online,” he says.
The museum’s Digitisation Project kicked off in April 2021 with the purpose of photographing and uploading the museum’s
vast collection to a free, publically-accessible database
. With more than three million items in its collection, digitisation plays an important role in ensuring that objects –
and the stories behind them – can be shared.
While most of the museum’s collection can be photographed on a table in a studio, the KZ1 sails pose a big challenge because they’re, well...big. The yacht’s mast was a whopping 48 metres tall and a set of main, jib and spinnaker boast a combined area of 1,600
The sails need to be fully unfurled in order to be photographed and the Civic Theatre, along with Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
at Aotea Centre, have proven ideal locations.
“On reflection, it’s quite appropriate to be undertaking this project in a theatre because, when you think about it, the
America’s Cup races are all spectacle – they are performances,” says Keenleyside.
The museum’s Digitisation Project Manager, Heidi Schlumpf, says the process of digitisation serves multiple purposes.
From a conservation standpoint, the less an object is handled, the less likely it is to be damaged. By photographing and
digitisng them, future researchers and enthusiasts can simply view the digital record rather than having to handle the
And there’s another important benefit to digitising: crowdsourcing information. The museum’s Collections Online portal
allows viewers to comment on individual objects and provide additional information they might have, something that can’t
be done easily with items in storage or on display in the museum.
“Digitisation displays collections to viewers near and far; not just those who are able to visit in person,” says
“This augments the museum’s ability to gather new information about objects in the collection, which adds to the
richness, accuracy and connections that can be drawn between collections and the wider community. It is a truly powerful