Friday, 14 August 2015

Grahamstown Gazette: the Local Museum edition

Every month I write a local heritage-themed column, on behalf of The Treasury, for the Grahamstown Gazette. Here's my piece for the August edition.

From The Treasury:

Cochrane Street is almost certainly unique in New Zealand: where else could you find three museums and an archive within spitting distance of the same street? As well as The Treasury, Thames Historical Museum, Thames Mineralogical Museum and Bella Street Pump House Museum of Technology, Cochrane Street is home to several historically significant sites. From Bird in Hand Hill to Holdship’s Wharf, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere with more history packed into a few short blocks.

What may come as a surprise is how much of Thames’ material heritage has been shipped off for storage elsewhere over the years. While the Mineralogical Museum has been part of the Thames landscape since 1901 (the School of Mines itself is even older, opened in 1886), the advent of regional museums celebrating social history is much more modern. As the gold dried up and Auckland grew, many of Thames’ historic records and artefacts were shipped off to the provincial capital for safe storage. 

Probably the most famous local treasure to find a new home in Auckland is Hotonui, the meeting house which once stood opposite Thames South School. Today, Hotonui has pride of place in Auckland Museum. Built as a wedding present by the Ngāti Awa tribe in the late 1870s, it was moved to Auckland in 1925 and dedicated after the present Auckland Museum opened in 1929. 

The New Zealand Herald reported in 1925 that Chief Wirope Hoterene Taipari’s wish, before his death, was for Hotonui to be preserved as an assembly point for the people of Hauraki. However, the meeting house fell into disrepair, and Cheif Taipari’s son Eruini was instrumental in ensuring the house was fully restored and safely rebuilt in Auckland Museum’s new building. When Auckland War Memorial Museum opened in November 1929, three hundred people attended a separate ceremony to mark the reopening of Hotonui.

Elsewhere in Auckland, you’ll also find plenty of Thames photographs in the Sir George Grey Special Collection at Auckland Libraries. The Treasury has a great selection of these photos printed out and filed in our Image Folders – just the place to look if you feel like browsing the streets of early Thames.

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