A blank T-shirt is like a blank canvas. Put words and images on a Tee and it becomes part of your identity. It’s how you share a joke with mates, challenge the establishment, express your beliefs, push a brand or support a band. Maybe it’s the way you show some love for whānau and friends or some pride for your neighbourhood and NZ. Wear the T-shirt and your story is out there. Auckland Museum is gathering the largest digital collection of T-shirts, with the help of the whole community.
In a first for the museum, the digital crowd-sourcing project is running alongside an exhibition by the same name.
Identi-Tee: Taku Tihate, Taku Korero (My T-shirt, My Story) opens in the Tamaki Gallery this weekend.
To seed the digital project, Auckland Museum gathered stories at the Ngapuhi Festival earlier this year, Pasifika and Polyfest and from its own staff.
Identi-Tee co-curator Chanel Clarke, Curator Maori at the museum, says gathering these early t-shirt stories has confirmed the results of the exhibition team’s initial research.
“The depth of meaning attached to these t-shirts and their ability to trigger memories is significant. People attach a vast range of meanings to t-shirts; sometimes it’s simply humour or it can be a way to express a belief, sometimes it is about remembering a place and time, or it can be about identity or unity.”
“Common to the t-shirt stories though is a sense that the t-shirt is the enduring physical manifestation that captures and evokes meaning and memory long after the fact.”
“T-shirts can speak volumes with little more than a slogan or a logo, or a simple image.”
Exhibition developer Janneen Love says inside the exhibition photos of t-shirt-clad New Zealanders, taken by respected photographer Gill Hanly, provide an interesting lens on our past.
“We’ve got peace advocate Alyn Ware in a ‘Nukebuster’ tee with David Lange as nuke-busting hero. Other photos feature a young Pita Sharples in his Te Aute College Jubilee tee and a group performing the haka with t-shirts calling for an end to Waitangi celebrations.”
The exhibition also includes t-shirts from the museum’s collections and a film from visual artist Janet Lilo exploring the connections between t-shirts and identity.
People will be invited to share their t-shirt stories onsite in the gallery and Te Kakano Information Centre and online. The growing digital collection will also appear in the exhibition.
For more information, imagery or to arrange an interview please contact:
Melanie Cooper E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: 021 899 062