Museum improvements

Dargaville Museum manager Maree Saunders in front of new signs, which also bear the museum’s new name — Dargaville Museum Te Whare Taonga O Tunatahi

Things are changing next year at the Dargaville Museum with a new name, refurbishment of the Lighthouse Function Centre and renovations on the Maori display area.

One of the first things manager Maree Saunders recognised when she started in July, was that the outside needed more signage. When people drive in, the sign over the door gets blocked and people have had trouble finding the entrance.

“I also thought we needed a Maori name to bring us in line with bilingual New Zealand and a name with a point of difference. So I looked up the history of Joseph Dargaville and how chiefs from different iwi sold him the Tunatahi block which Dargaville now sits on. I thought it was a very inclusive and cooperative story.

“So we called a hui with local Maori to discuss the name ‘Te Whare Taonga O Tunatahi,’ (Whare Taonga translates to museum) and that had support.”

Therefore the museum now has two new signs bearing it’s new name at the entrance and on the outside wall. Matching signs are also above the door to the museum and the lighthouse function centre. “It’s just unified and taken ownership of the building.” 

A blessing and celebratory event for the signs, and to honour the gift of the new Maori name, is happening on Wednesday, December 20.

Three branding posts will also go at the entrance, representing European pioneers, Maori and maritime — the themes found in the museum. Maree also plans to redesign the Maori display area, alongside iwi advisors. “There’s fishing implements alongside war and cooking implements — it’s all very inappropriate.”

Her ideas so far include making the area bigger and properly displaying the artifacts using models and creating a scene, similar to the maritime display. 

The Lighthouse Function Centre will soon have a new blue carpet to match the signs. “New curtains will go up as well, and everything will get a bit of a touch up.”

With all this going on, Maree says that she would love to have more volunteers. “The commitment is as much as you can give. It’s mostly front of house but there’s also a workshop where men can help out.”

The Dargaville Museum is at the Pou Tu Te Rangi Harding Park, 3 Mt Wesley Coast Rd. Phone 09 439 7555. Over summer they are open every day, 9-5, except Christmas Day.


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