Hidden treasures in the museum

01:57, Jul 02 2012
Come and visit the Marlborough Museum

It is surprising the number of people who don't seem to know about Marlborough Museum, or at least have never been there.

Most of the people I've asked about the museum during the past few weeks have, at best, had some vague notion there is one out at Brayshaw Park, although they seem to confuse it with one of the old buildings at the park filled with old machinery and the like.

Only a very few have been able to pinpoint the museum building and some of the displays in it.

It's one of Blenheim's best-kept secrets and, as it happens, it holds some well-kept secrets.

I had been living here for more than a year before I made it to Brayshaw Park, and probably another six months before I went inside the museum. And then it was only because I was specifically invited by museum director Steve Austin.

I was surprised by some of the displays inside, particularly the wine display, which covers the history of the industry during the past 40-odd years.


Originally set up by the Marlborough Historical Society, the museum contains all the usual stuff you would expect to see, all in static displays rather than cleverly shown off as they do in modern museums like Te Papa.

There's good reason for that. Money. Or lack of it.

But things are changing slowly and Steve and his team are working on a clever new display on the history of the Wairau Bar, which is the first known site of human occupation in the country, about 800 years ago.

I know all this because I was out at the museum again on Friday night for the launch of the Friends of the Museum, a campaign to make people more aware of the place and to get involved. Or even just to visit.

The function was also a celebration for the first Marlborough living cultural treasurer, 94-year-old weaver Peg Moorhouse, and a chance to hear Marlborough Boys' College student Hayden Beavis talk about the rowing crew's experience taking the replica whaling skiff down the Thames with Ron Perano for the Queen's jubilee.

I met up with a group of friends after the "do" and asked them about the museum, and most of them had no idea we had one. Perhaps I should lead an exploration party one weekend.

We met up for breakfast yesterday morning with out-of-town friends who had been here for three days for a business conference. The male half of the pair had managed to get out to the classic car display at Omaka and raved about it. That's another one I haven't seen yet and have to add to my to-do list.

He said it's not a spectacular show, just a line-up of classic cars driven on New Zealand roads, but the "talent" on show makes it worthwhile. He had expected they might be there for an hour, but it ended up as more than two hours of time very well spent, he said.

A mid-winter Christmas party on Saturday night reminded us the year is half gone and we haven't started on the house renovations yet. The planning is going well, but the lack of progress hit late yesterday afternoon when Kathryn had finally seen enough of the hideous paisley wallpaper in the hall. She pulled at a loose corner of paper and in not much more than an hour the wall was back to the plain white paper underneath, including some scribbles made by an earlier generation of children living in the house.

I wonder what else we'll find when we really get going.

The Marlborough Express