Western Bay Museum

It’s a far cry from the museums of old. Modern, bright, and housed inside the instantly recognisable historic landmark that is the old Fire Station in Katikati; the Western Bay Museum is an establishment renowned in our community.

The museum’s beautifully curated exhibitions, hands-on experiences, outdoor engagement areas and many passionate volunteers bring to life the stories on which the foundations of the Western Bay of Plenty are built.

Exhibitions are updated three times a year, keeping the museum fresh and exciting for visitors regular and new.

‘Etiquette & Elbow Grease’ is the museum’s current exhibition. Visitors can step back in time and learn how pioneer women of the Western Bay made a gracious life out of the toil and drudgery by making tasks easier and adding a touch of glamour to their everyday lives.

And it’s not just exhibitions. The museum also runs school programmes that provide an immersive learning experience for students.

One of these programmes sees students step into the early 1900s, wearing clothes of the time and participating in a traditional classroom.

A nature-based school programme offers environmental education in the outdoor area of the museum, with children learning the importance of environmental protection through water testing and lessons on native ecology.

While the little museum has a lot to give, Museum Manager Paula Gaelic says there are even greater things in store ahead.

“The Museum is a place of learning, fascination and research for heritage, history and Taonga. We want to build on that and take it to the next level.

“Behind the scenes of any reputable museum are highly qualified museum professionals. There is a science and high skill set required in correctly preserving and conserving museum collections, which really goes unnoticed.

“There is also building compliancy considerations like climate-controlled environments, lux level lighting requirements, insect and pest controls, handling and storage requirements and generally following the best museum practices and our Code of Ethics.

“We also take our role and responsibilities seriously with regard to The Treaty of Waitangi and Maori in Museums; a strong Iwi relationship and partnership is part of our ‘Big Dreams’ philosophy.”

With the financial assistance of Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi, the museum has had a professional evaluation in these regards, and from this has come a Museum Development Plan.     

One focus of the Museum Development Plan is facilitating the return of Taonga from other museums within New Zealand and around the world to local Whenua.

Paula says to enable this to happen, the museum needs to have an appropriate storage facility and a suitably qualified collections curator.

“All going to plan, we are employing a collections curator this year. They will be responsible for digital cataloguing, digital exhibitions and a digital research library.  They will also manage the process for assessing and acquiring any new items for the collection. 

“This role is pivotal in being able to request and receive local Taonga from other New Zealand and overseas museums to be returned to Whenua. 

“There are at least 600 Maori Taonga housed in other museums that belong to Ngai te Rangi, some which travelled around the world in the Te Maori Exhibition in the 1980s and pre-European carvings from Waiau Road.  They cannot be returned until we have a Museum Qualified Collections Curator and reach storage and workspace compliancy. We do not assume anything but certainly hope over time we will partner with Iwi to fulfil this ‘Big Dream’.”

Other plans include creating a strong focus on Te Puke School visits, securing an exhibition space in Te Puke, and constructing an extension to display Maori history artefacts.

The Western Bay Museum recently received $40,000 in TECT funding to help cover operating costs and to deliver on their strategic and development plans. Paula says the museum’s relationship with TECT is paramount to its success.

“With funding from TECT, we can preserve and conserve our history, deliver exciting exhibitions, support our education sector with hands-on history, and educate the next generations to look after and understand the wonder of their environment in their backyard.

“We also allow many volunteers to dedicate their skills and talents to an important cause with satisfaction and self-worth. TECT’s funding allows this to happen as museums are not a business, so we are extremely reliant on operational grants.

“Support from TECT also will enable us to start on delivering on our Museum Development Plan.  Our plan is crucial to our development as a reputable institution, preserving our history and endeavouring to reach the highest standards in museum best practice. As with any professional qualification, there is a science and skillset that enables one to deliver, unlike one without this level of expertise.

“Te Papa National Services Te Paerangi announced that Western Bay Museum is the most progressive museum in the country at present. Museums are like Libraries, not to be gauged by financial profit but by our place in society, with social, environmental and educational rewards. We are so grateful for TECT’s support in helping us maintain this place.”

To learn more about the Western Bay Museum, visit https://www.westernbaymuseum.nz/


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