Is Auckland Museum planning to make money out of SirEd’s papers?

My heart sank when I saw the headline, “Sir Ed’s family sues over papers”. This is just the kind of undignified shit fight that often goes on in families after a death, and inevitably involves money.

This case it appears, is no different, but there’s a twist.


Dr Vitali - a step to far with Sir Ed's legacy?

The Hillary children are disputing the Auckland Museum interpretation of their rights of ownership of the material that Sir Edmund Hillary bequeathed to the museum.

It looks like Hillary’s intention was that while the museum had possession of the papers and photos, obviously so they could be shared with the public, they were required to consult the Hillary children over the use of them. This was probably intended to stop the Museum doing something like selling them, or allowing them to be used or published in a way that would offend the family. Fair enough.

So why is the Auckland Museum, which is never exactly flush with funds, getting involved in a court case to test their interpretation of the will? Exactly what this interpretation is they haven’t made clear, but it looks like they want to have sole publishing rights of the material, which would clearly be quite lucrative for the museum – they could cash in by publishing the material and licencing the photographs etc.

What’s interesting is that Dr Vanda Vitali, now Director of the Museum, and formally director of the Los Angeles Museum, what comment and will not talk to the Hillary children about the matter. All rather odd, and confirms that the museum has decided to take a hard nosed approach to the possibility of turning some cash out of Hillary’s legacy.

This is all rather unfortunate and Dr Vitali might be making a mistake. I suspect the public won’t like what she’s planning to do and see it as a money grab.

If Dr Vitali is worried about getting her hands on some cash, marching off to court is not the way to do it – yeah, I know that’s how things are done in Los Angeles, but not here sister. Sitting down with Hillary’s children and coming to a mutually satisfactory arrangement with some dignity is what’s required. I’m not saying that Sir Ed’s kids are the easiest people to get on with, Peter Hillary seems an ‘interesting’ individual, but Dr Vitali owes it to the public to approach this issue with some dignity and not get involved in a silly and costly legal shit fight.

Dr Vitali seems to be a pretty bolshy individual and has been ruffling feathers at the museum for some time now, this might be a step to far as we, the public pay her wages.

Dr Vitali might be underestimating how pissed off we might all become if she starts being pushy and aggressive with the belongings of one of NZ greatest hero’s.

    • John S
    • May 15th, 2009
    • This is obviously the view of the Museum, but it certainly differs from the view of the Hillary children. There is something wrong for it to get to this point and possibly disingenuous for Dr Vitali to express surprise at events. This didn’t suddenly occur and a string of issues must have lead up to the latest development.

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