Rakiura Museum opens

    Kaiwhakahaere Te Runaka O Awarua Dean Whaanga leads the blessing at the opening of the Rakiura Museum on Stewart Island on Tuesday. Photo: Chris Chilton
    Two years since the build began, the Rakiura Museum has opened on Stewart Island. Photo: Supplied

    IT has been close to 20 years since the idea to replace the Rakiura-Stewart Island Museum was first mooted.

    On Tuesday, the $3.7 million project opened its doors and the island’s history was once again shared with community members and those further afield.

    Rakiura Heritage Centre Trust (RHCT) building committee chairwoman Margaret Hopkins said it was hard to believe the opening day had finally come.

    “It’s just looking fantastic, after all that time building and getting things organised. It looks great and we’re really excited and thrilled about it.”

    It was the end of the 1990s when the museum committee decided to create a new museum to replace the old one, which was built in the 1960s and extended about 30 years later.

    In 2005, the RHCT was formed and the funding applications and community fundraising really began.

    Work started on the build in 2018, however, due to Covid-19 delays and the death of interior designer Chris Currie, there were some hold-ups along the way.

    With a myriad of artefacts representing the stories of the island’s oldest inhabitants set to be on display, a lot of people were interested in where their families had come from.

    “We are getting an increasing amount of inquiries and we have a lot more diverse range of exhibits to what we had before [in the last museum].

    “People will be pleasantly surprised.”

    During the past two months in particular, the island had been bustling with people, many who were staying on the island while working on the building.

    “It’s been so busy lately, [the island has been] full to capacity.

    “We were even struggling to find accommodation for the workers.”

    It took a year to build the museum, and 13 months to source and compile pieces for the exhibition.

    The building had a gallery twice the size of the old museum, a large, temperature-controlled storeroom, a workroom, meeting room, office and large foyer which featured the locally carved millennium pou.

    There were about 200 guests at the opening.

    A dawn blessing started the festivities, followed by a powhiri and a local te reo group who performed a set of waiata for those in attendance.

    Mrs Hopkins said it had been a long journey to reach the big day, however, there were high hopes for its future.

    “It’s going to be a huge tourist attraction, especially on a wet weather day.”affiliate tracking urlNike