Bowls museum to go online

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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What is touted as the world's only lawn bowls museum is about to roll on in to the 21st century.

New Plymouth's TSB Bank Bowls New Zealand Museum is set to get photos of its entire catalogue up online in the next few weeks, after about a year spent by the Taranaki Research Centre's Sue Page photographing and describing each item.

The small museum's only paid employee, Teena Foreman, said the collection - the only one of its kind in the world - was started in founder Bob Vinsen's Shannon home in 1981.

When Vinsen and his wife Mavis returned to New Plymouth in 1992, thousands of exhibits came with them, and the collection had been growing steadily ever since.

"We've got close to 1500 big items, and probably that much again in badges," said Foreman, who had worked at the museum for seven years.

The museum contains a vast array of memorabilia - from photos to flags and books to blazers.

A wooden shield with a stag's head hangs from one wall and a shelving unit on another holds a collection of bowls - the oldest having been made in 1875.

Foreman said an extra large porcelain "kitty" bowl at the museum had belonged to the Eltham club.

Its unusual size was because of the Eltham green having been cut with a scythe - if the club had used a smaller ball it would not have been seen in the longer-than-usual grass, she said.

Some of the oldest balls were inset with ivory or silver and made from lignum vitae wood.

The cataloguing and creation of a website was funded with a grant from the TSB Community Trust, said the museum's chairman Basil Newland.

Newland said the ancient game of bowls had been around since at least the 1300s, and the museum housed memorabilia from 48 countries.

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