A milestone for home of Waikawa's treasures

A Southland community has paid tribute to the museum that has safeguarded its keepsakes and history for four decades.

Almost 100 people gathered to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Waikawa and Districts Museum, held at the Niagara Hall on Friday night.

The museum started life in the old Waikawa School building in 1974, opening only in the weekends, but has expanded into a seven-days-a-week museum and tourist information centre.

Staffed by volunteers, its collection houses everything from taxidermied animals to early settlers' treasures and Maori artefacts.

Museum volunteer June Stratford said the building had fulfilled an important role keeping the district's stories and family treasures, such as her ancestor's side saddle, safe for future generations.

"Other than that, where would we put these things? They would just deteriorate."

Founding members shared their stories of the museum's past - battling over building permits, finding rodent visitors among exhibits and surviving Southland's weather. The birthday festivities also included a performance byWaikawa ukulele group the Strummingbirds and an exhibit of artworks and needlework from around the area.

Southland District councillor and Southland regional heritage committee chairman Paul Duffy acknowledged what the museum committee had achieved with limited resources. He and fellow councillor Julie Keast presented community service awards to past presidents Heather Buckingham and Ruth Hayes for their contributions to the museum, community sports and arts groups, and women's division.