Newspaper Article 2017 – Dazzling Wairoa Museum truly reflects town


Dazzling Wairoa Museum truly reflects town

“The objects are beautifully presented with each story from equestrian days, adzes and patu, robes of local mayoralty, lodges, to beautiful kete and wharaki.”

This week Michelle Lee, Curator Maori, and I visited Wairoa Museum.

As a regional museum, we endeavour to maintain a direct relationship with Wairoa and other museums within the region.

Director Mike Spedding and I have known each other for a number of years and have a great working relationship through the East Coast Museums Directors Group.

We arrived at the museum in the midst of a pod of happy and excited school children from Waikaremoana.

Tairawhiti Museum’s large blow-up “Star Lab” filled the first gallery and children were obviously loving the experience, learning celestial stories and connections to their ancestor Maui.

Activities were happening in the Star Lab, education rooms and across the road by the river.

The education room has been transformed with fun, child-friendly and interesting displays where you can open doors and suitcases or peer through small peek-holes to “discover” the treasures within.

Still leaving the centre of the room clear, the space continues to be used for lessons but is not “closed-off” when there are no school groups visiting.

Both Tairawhiti Museum and MTG Hawke’s Bay provide education programmes at Wairoa Museum.

Our educators are developing a new programme tailored specifically for the museum and community.

Based on Te Wairoa Hopupu Honengengenge Matangi Rau, the river running next to the museum, the programme will utilise taonga on display in the galleries.

Te Wairoa Hopupu Honengengenge Matangi Rau was part of New Zealand’s coastal shipping era, prior to rail and better roads.

Extending our programmes beyond our walls is something we are looking to do more in the future.

Mike took us on a tour through the galleries, explaining the rationale and thinking behind the displays.

Mike and his team have made huge changes in a short time, enabling a small museum to provide a range of experiences, with each exhibition having a unique flavour and feel.

Opening up rooms, and rethinking layout and use of space, they have created more room for display.

This museum is doing great things – much of it achieved through donations or grants and a lot of creativity.

The main gallery sensitively and confidently tells the story of the attack on Omaru-hakeke Pa.

I’m not going to try and tell that story here but the thing that struck us, and was done really well, was how the story was told through first-hand narratives. Two other spaces allow for changing exhibitions, currently a photographic display and a needlework exhibition. Another gallery ensures the vast majority of the collection is out on display, in a form of open storage, but still grouped to present cohesive themes and interesting visual layouts.

There has clearly been a lot of love and attention paid to these displays.

The objects are beautifully presented with each story from equestrian days, adzes and patu, robes of local mayoralty, lodges, to beautiful kete and wharaki.

Each story and case given equal care and attention, ensuring every moment in the history of the town is treasured.

We left the museum to the sounds of children’s song and laughter.

If a museum is a reflection of a town and those invested in its museum, then Wairoa is indeed abundant, generous and caring.

Photo captions –

PICTURED: Part of the education room.

Laura Vodanovich is the director of the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke’s Bay.

Original digital file


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Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


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Business / Organisation

Wairoa Museum

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Newspaper article

Date published

23 September 2017

Creator / Author

  • Laura Vodanovich


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Michelle Lee
  • Mike Spedding
  • Laura Vodanovich

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