By Ruth Beran
In 2010, Ruth Beran visited Rutherford’s Den with educator Claire Norton and a group of Year 12 students from Christ’s College. You can listen to that story here:
Little was anyone to know that less than a year later, in 2011, Christchurch would be hit by devastating earthquakes, and Rutherford’s Den as part of the Arts Centre would suffer extensive damage with 22 of the 23 buildings at the Centre closed.
The Centre has been off-limits to the public since then, but Chief Executive of the Arts Centre, Andre Lovatt, and Pauline Scanlan, Education Project Director at Rutherford’s Den take Ruth Beran on a tour.
At over 18,500 square metres, the site is one of the largest historical restoration projects in the world and the buildings are being both strengthened and restored, using new construction techniques and old ones.
For example, stone masons on site are using largely the same techniques as 130 plus years ago, when the buildings were constructed.
“Every hole that’s dug on site is dug under an archaeological order so it’s dug by hand and it’s recorded,” says Andre.
“Basically we’ve formed a new structure in these buildings, and that’s been done in a way such that there’s absolutely no geometric change,” he says. “In other words, windows don’t get smaller walls don’t get fatter. And then the really nice thing is that the final part of the process is that the heritage fabric goes back on.”
At the moment the education team at Rutherford’s Den can’t use the heritage space, so the educators are travelling out to schools, or setting up in the University of Canterbury, to reach students like the Year 12 group from Linwood College.
For Linwood College physics teacher Kate Jackson, the Rutherford’s Den programme was a “much cooler way of introducing radioactivity.”
“It actually gives them a much more hands-on, and just a different, environment to learn in,” she says.
While the earthquakes have had a major impact, educator Chris Richards from Rutherford’s Den can see some definite positives.
“Whereas we can’t wait to be back in the Den, in that historic place, it has meant that we are working closer with the University, it has meant that we are out in the community to schools raising the profile, and it has meant we’ve had to really be creative about how we stimulate student’s interest and how we provide programmes,” says Chris.
The Arts Centre will reopen in stages, with the aim to complete over half the site by 2015. Rutherford's Den is being refurbished and is also scheduled to reopen in 2015.