International Museum Day!

IMD 2017 banner

International Museum Day (IMD) is celebrated on 18 May every year. The objective of this day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Participation in IMD is growing among museums all over the world. In 2015, more than 35,000 museums participated in the event in some 145 countries.

This year the Whanganui Regional Museum is closed for seismic strengthening and cannot offer an IMD programme. We do urge you, however, to explore the theme for IMD and give some thought to how museums might deliver responsible messages through their exhibitions, education and public programmes and their publications.

The theme for 2017 is:

Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums

We define ourselves through important and fundamental historic events. Contested histories, or historical interpretations of human conflict and war, are not isolated traumatic events. These histories, which are often little known or misunderstood, resonate universally, as they concern and affect us all.

Museum collections offer reflections of memories and representations of history. This day will therefore provide an opportunity to show how museums think about and depict traumatic memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences.

By focusing on the role of museums as hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people, this theme highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation.

Acknowledgement and thanks to International Council of Museums for information, text and media support.

Aaaaaaannnnd We’re Back!

It’s been a long time since this was updated and we apologise – we’ve missed you too!  But we are back now so keep checking in to see the latest in updates, research, and interesting stories that we will continue to share with you.

There have been some pretty big changes of late…   The main body of the museum building on Watt Street has been closed to allow for important earthquake strengthening work to be undertaken.


The original Alexander Museum building, opened in 1928

Bdsc_0046_01ut we still want to share our local stories with the public so we are excited to announce that our temporary home on Ridgway Street is now open. An all new exhibition, Te Matapihi – looking into the Museum, joins the Museum Shop and Gallery in the old Post Office building. Entry is free and there are a range of things to check out including the vintage games table, the taxidermy reading cubby, the Museum Explorer, and much more.

Te Matapihi tells the history of the Museum: Drew’s museum 1895-1928; then the new building in Queens Park 1928-1968; and the extension and addition of the Maori Court 1968-2016.


While the new show is telling our story, we will be preparing the next chapter at the Watt Street site.  The builders will be working away upstairs on a major earthquake strengthening project, while the collection staff will be downstairs working on a collection storage refit and upgrade.


Exciting times are ahead!  Keep checking back here for updates, as well as the usual articles and features we will continue to share.

Pūoro Karetao – Musical Puppet Show


Nau mai ki te Whare Tāpere! We are fortunate to be able to bring you James Webster and his team, who will have you mesmerised throughout their stage production. Let them introduce you to karetao (puppets) which are also pūoro (instruments). A true tohunga (expert), James has carefully carved the exquisite cast, and when these pūoro karetao sing – you don’t want to miss it.

In June our Pūoro Karetao show was postponed due to the flood. We are pleased to announce that we have secured another date with James Webster to showcase these wonderful taonga, next Monday Aug 10th in our Davis Theatre.

The two school sessions at 10.30-11.30am and 1-2pm are almost booked out, so reply now to to secure a seat for your students and enquire about the school rates.

There is ONLY evening show from 6.30 – 7.30pm. Ring 349 1110 or email now to find out more.

The River Rises Again

Looking up Victoria Avenue with the Post Office tower in the centre.  Unknown photographer, 1904 (W-F-053)

Looking up Victoria Avenue with the Post Office tower in the centre. Unknown photographer, 1904 (W-F-053)

As Whanganui recovers from the largest flood in recorded history, we are again reminded of the immense and untameable power of the mighty awa. There have been several events in the recorded past when the river has burst its banks and invaded the township, and even more before recorded history.

The first flood of note occurred in 1891 when rain fell continuously from Thursday 12 February until midday the following day. The river rose rapidly and was reported to have smelled of sulphur and carried a variety of detritus including timber, trees, waka, household furniture, grain and even sheep.

Whanganui River looking from Durie Hill towards Moutoa Gardens. Photographer: A Martin, 13 February 1891 (W-F-018)

Whanganui River looking from Durie Hill towards Moutoa Gardens. Photographer: A Martin, 13 February 1891 (W-F-018)

By 10.00am on Friday 13 February, the river water had invaded the boat sheds on Taupō Quay.  Hotels, which stored their wares in the cellar, and shop owners, had to remove their stock by boat to prevent loss. A growing crowd of residents gathered to watch the salvage work and the swelling river, and even observed some unlucky people attempting to get to their houses by boat, only to be capsized. By 2.00pm the river was only six inches from the town wharf and four feet below the deck of the Town Bridge.

Many boats and waka were washed out to sea, but the rowing clubs emptied their sheds to limit the loss. The Wanganui Harbour Board lost a dredge and a punt, and the steam launch Moutoa also came adrift, although it was later rescued at Pipiriki.

Flood water from Paul's Corner, Yarrows Fish Shop and Restaurant, Steam Packet Hotel, Prince of Wales Hotel, A Mason's Store. Photographer: A Martin, 13 February 1891 (W-F-011)

Flood water from Paul’s Corner, Yarrows Fish Shop and Restaurant, Steam Packet Hotel, Prince of Wales Hotel, A Mason’s Store. Photographer: A Martin, 13 February 1891 (W-F-011)

Residents recalled the earlier floods they had witnessed in 1858, 1864, and 1875, and Māori remembered earlier ones still, but this one was agreed to be the largest in living memory.

By 11.00pm on Saturday night Taupō Quay was dry, but the roaring river had left behind a lot of mud and a huge amount of clean-up work. The flood damaged the roads in the town, closed several rural roads, caused damage to the river bank, washed away sections of the railway and left others underwater, lifted telegraph poles and disrupted communications, and left parts of the Whangaehu Valley waist-deep in places.

Thirteen years later in 1904, the rain again fell for several days, and the unseasonable warmth of the rain melted the early snow upstream. The Whanganui River began to swell, and by 9.30pm on Wednesday 25 May, the water was on the road by the rowing sheds on Taupō Quay. An hour later the roads between the Metropolitan Hotel and Moutoa Gardens were submerged and people were canoeing in the flood waters.

Looking towards the Victoria Avenue and Taupō Quay intersection, James Thain & Co to the right Photographer: Unknown, 1904 (W-F-055)

Looking towards the Victoria Avenue and Taupō Quay intersection, James Thain & Co to the right
Photographer: Unknown, 1904 (W-F-055)

Despite the late hour, a crowd gathered to watch the drama unfold. Observers on the Town Bridge could feel it vibrating with the force of the water flowing beneath, and the police were called in to dissuade loiterers, for fear the bridge would be washed away and take them with it.

By dawn the next day the river was over a foot above the 1891 flood lines and almost three times its usual width. The massive and powerful flow washed some riverside houses away, invaded many more, and left streets underwater.

Flood waters near the Union Bank of Australia Co. Ltd on Victoria Avenue Photographer: Possibly W H T Partington, 1904 (W-F-063a)

Flood waters near the Union Bank of Australia Co. Ltd on Victoria Avenue
Photographer: Possibly W H T Partington, 1904 (W-F-063a)

Those who owned carts and boats made the most of the situation by charging a nominal fee to ferry passengers to the best spots to witness the flood, although those not licensed to carry passengers were later fined by the police. This was a time when amateur photography was really starting to take off, so those with portable cameras took the opportunity to capture the event. Water began to subside at 11.30am on Sunday morning, again leaving a huge amount of mud and silt behind.

On Friday 23 and Saturday 24 February 1940 the rain fell heavily in the back country causing the river to flood again. The hardest hit areas in the town included Taupō Quay, Wanganui East, Aramoho, and Pūtiki. In Anzac Parade the water was up to three feet deep, covering gardens and entering houses and drowning the rides in Kōwhai Park. Residents were given plenty of warning to evacuate their houses and try to salvage what they could before the waters hit.

Spectators watching rowers outside the rowing clubs on Taupō Quay. Photographer: C F Newham & Co, 1940 (W-F-080)

Spectators watching rowers outside the rowing clubs on Taupō Quay. Photographer: C F Newham & Co, 1940 (W-F-080)

The Wanganui–Wellington road was blocked at Whangaehu, and the Parapara and Pipirīkī roads were blocked by slips. Rural bridges were swept away and witnesses recalled the Whangaehu Valley looking like an inland lake.  A dredge broke free near Wanganui East and smashed into the Dublin Street Bridge, then passed under the Town Bridge before crashing into the Imlay Wharf. And at the peak of the flood at midday on Saturday, the waters on Taupō Quay were over two feet deep; however, damage to stock and premises was not as bad as first feared.

Then on Saturday 10 March 1990, 30 hours of solid rain caused the river to burst its banks again. Kōwhai Park and Anzac Parade went underwater and Civil Defence evacuated many residents. Some tried to protect their houses with sandbags but the waters flowed over them, and the flow was strong enough to rearrange the furniture in several homes. Although high enough to submerge Corliss Island, the river only just managed to touch the road behind the old Chronicle buildings on Taupō Quay, sparing the business district from too much damage.

A car is stranded in flood waters. Photographer: Unknown, 1940 (W-F-134)

A car is stranded in flood waters. Photographer: Unknown, 1940 (W-F-134)

Part of the job of the Whanganui Regional Museum is documenting our community. In 100 years, people will want to know what the great flood of 2015 was like. We have archival photos of the flooding in 1904 and 1940, but many of the photos and videos created over the last 10 days might end up being lost or deleted or locked away in Facebook. We would like to add some to our digital collection.

If you have photos or videos of the flood that you would like to donate to the Museum for future generations, email them to the Archivist on Remember to include in the email:

  1. Date, time and place it was taken, as best you can remember
  2. The (full) names of anyone shown
  3. What is important or significant about the photo/video; imagine you’re explaining it to your grandkids.

Sandi will contact you with any paperwork required, and the images will be accessioned into the Museum’s database with you noted as the donor. Help us record this event for posterity.

School Holiday Programme

Tomorrow is the last day at school for New Zealand children before the Winter Holidays begin.  Don’t know what to do?  Then come down to the Museum!  We have a big range of things to do – making bears, colouring, explorers, teddy bears picnic…  To whet your appetite here, is the programme and a few shots from our last holiday line up.



WP_20150402_005 WP_20150402_010 WP_20150402_002

Hug a Museum Worker Day is coming!


Get ready, the first international Hug a Museum Worker Day is set to take place this coming Monday 29th June 2015.  This is a new initiative and you can read all about it here.  It started in the United States but will no doubt spread across the globe – the South Canterbury Museum are already getting into it!

So stretch your arms, practice your reach, and remember to hug a museum worker on Monday.

Royal Fever!

Harry 3

Yesterday Whanganui was visited by Prince Harry and royal fever well and truly took hold of the town.  Keen Prince-watchers were lining the viewing barrier several hours before he was due to arrive, making sure they got a good position for a possible handshake.  The Museum got into the spirit of the event too and braved the rain to decorate the entrance with some Union Jack bunting.  We don’t know if he noticed but it looked good.


Here are a few shots our staff photographer, Kathy Greensides, managed to take of his royal personage and his fans.

Harry 4

Harry 2

Harry 5

Harry 1

Making Poppies

With Poppy Week commencing, we are taking the time to remember the brave ANZACs who risked life and limb to fight.  Ahead of ANZAC Day on Saturday, we are hoping to turn the lawn in front of the Museum into a miniature Flanders Field and cover it with red poppies.  Want to give us a hand?

All materials will be provided. just bring your enthusiasm and ANZAC spirit, make a poppy, and leave it with us – we’ll put them out on Friday ahead of the dawn service on Saturday.

Lest we forget.

ANZAC poppy making image

Marvelous marrow

4.Pupils from Central Infants School in Whanganui are gathered around a stall of garden produce and jams and chutneys at Harvest Festival. The photograph was taken on 18 March 1921. Whanganui Regional Museum Collection ref: SCS-CI-003

Pupils from Central Infants School in Whanganui are gathered around a stall of garden produce and jams and chutneys at Harvest Festival. The photograph was taken on 18 March 1921 (SCS-CI-003)

Autumn, time of changing colours, falling leaves, crisp mornings, and the harvest. Many casual and professional gardeners will now be looking at their crops and working at bringing in the rewards of their hard work over summer.

2. On the vineThe marrow is a cucurbit (Latin for gourd), a vegetable family that includes the melon, cucumber and squash. Cucurbitaceae had been cultivated in the Americas for around 2,000 years before being brought to Europe. The vines produce yellow or orange flowers which can be male or female. The male flowers produce pollen and the females produce the vegetable. In New Zealand they are best planted between October and December and will be ready to harvest after 3 or 4 months.

1. Home-grownA marrow is a courgette (or zucchini if you prefer) which has been left on the vine, rather than picked when small. A good marrow will be about the length of your forearm; any larger and they can become bitter to the taste. Like a courgette, the flesh of the marrow is white and creamy and the skin and seeds are edible. They are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, folic acid, and iron, and have no fat or cholesterol.

They are mild in flavour and offer themselves to be livened up with stronger flavours. A read through the recipe books in the museum collection reveals a treasure trove of marrow recipes used over the last hundred or more years – boiled or fried, stuffed and roasted, made into soups, jams and chutneys. It is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, its potential limited only by culinary imagination.

Margie Beautrais, one of the museum educators, has gardened most of her life with a focus on vegetables. Margie grows hue (hard-shelled gourds), kamokamo, pumpkins, beans, garlic, brassicas, lots of herbs, onions, yams, potatoes, and courgettes and marrows. Her secret to a good marrow crop is lots of manure or compost and lots of water when it gets dry. She recommends picking courgettes when they are young as the seeds haven’t developed and the entire fruit is edible, and likes grating them into mince dishes to add moisture and texture.

Harvesting potatoes at McGregor Park in Whanganui,1919 (GG-WB-009)

Harvesting potatoes at McGregor Park in Whanganui,1919 (GG-WB-009)

Margie’s green thumbs have got the better of her this year and she has a glut of marrows – so many she has generously decided to give them away! The marrows will be available to the public in the foyer of the museum from Saturday 28 March (today) during open hours of 10.00 am to 4.30 pm.  Visitors will be able to take home a marrow and a sheet of recipes, including ones taken from the cook books in our collection, and some more modern dishes too. Koha would be appreciated with all proceeds will be going towards relief in Vanuatu after the recent hurricane. This will be managed through UNICEF. Others who have a surplus of vegetables and don’t know what to do with them are welcome to add them to the collection at the museum to give away.

Here’s one to be going on with:

Radiation Cookery Book printed in 1931


6 lbs. marrow

6 lbs. preserving sugar

Rind and juice of 3 to 4 lemons

2 to 4 ozs bruised ginger.

Cut the marrow into 1-inch cubes. Place in bowls: alternate layers of fruit and sugar in each bowl. Leave in a cool place for 24 hours. Pout into the preserving pan. Bring to the boil slowly, stirring carefully to avoid breaking the marrow. Before boiling, add the juice of the lemons, and the rind and ginger ties in muslin. Boil rapidly for 30 to 35 minutes, skimming when necessary. The jam, when ready, will not set, but the marrow will sink in the syrup and the scum will stop rising. Pour into heated jars, cover and label.

Interior of the Fordell Presbyterian Church at Harvest Festival (B-CHW-013)

Interior of the Fordell Presbyterian Church at Harvest Festival (B-CHW-013)

While researching marrow recipes, the museum archivist came across this poem in the Unity Lodge Cookery Book printed in 1907:

A Ballad of Vegetables

by Joseph Meehan

A potato went out on a mash

And sought an onion bed;

“That’s pie for me!” observed the squash,

And all the beets turned red.

“Go ‘way!” the onion, weeping cried;

“Your love I cannot be;

The pumpkin be your lawful bride –

You cantaloupe with me.”

But onward still the tuber came

And lay down at her feet;

“You cauliflower by any name

And it will smell as wheat;

And I, too, am an early rose,

And you I’ve come to see;

So don’t turnip your lovely nose,

But spinachat with me.”

“I do not carrot all to wed,

So go, sir, if you please!”

The modest onion meekly said,

“And lettuce, pray, have peas!

Go, think that you have never seen

Myself, or smelled my sigh;

Too long a maiden I have been

For favours in your eye!”

“Ah, spare a cuss!” the tuber prayed;

“My cherryshed bride you’ll be;

You are the only weeping maid

That’s currant now with me!”

And as the wily tuber spoke

He caught her by surprise,

And giving her an artichoke,

Devoured her with his eyes.