Raglan’s first fire appliance and a restored 100-year-old switchboard from the town’s telephone exchange are among prized exhibits at the new $1 million museum in Wainui Road which opens to the public on Saturday for a free look-around.

But those wanting to see surfing memorabilia — which are destined to be the waterfront museum’s point of difference — will have to wait a while longer.

Various surfing exhibits are earmarked for the upper floor of the two-storey building, but at this stage it remains largely empty.

“We’re moving in gradually,” says Raglan & District Museum Society president Pat Day.

The society promises to have old surfing magazines and printed t-shirts from the Point Boardriders Club back in the ‘60s on display, along with surfboards shaped in the ‘70s by then local surfer Don Wilson.

Meantime Raglan’s pioneering fire appliance — a portable waterpump on top of a wheelbarrow — is among other new exhibits for the museum. The lightweight precursor to today’s fire engines could also be used by women from the Home Guard in wartime.

The refurbished switchboard stands alongside heritage photographs of Raglan’s first post office, which stood in the area now occupied by the library and council offices.

The post office was the building local artist Jenny Rhodes grew up in because her father was then the postmaster.

A taiaha or traditional Maori weapon — presented to the Wallis family and now in the custody of the museum — is of special significance to the museum’s collections, adds Pat.

It was used by Ngati Mahanga ancestors in the land wars to ensure there was no violence in Raglan to settlers, either Maori or Pakeha.

Pat is hoping too to have apothecary jars and bottles belonging to Raglan’s first chemist, T B Hill, on display by Saturday. Some still contain the laudanum and opium used last century.

Sadly however, he says, quite a lot of the old museum’s reserve collection was lost 18 months ago in the fire at the wharf, where it was stored in one of the sheds which burnt down.

A Raglan Whaingaroa timeline dating from the year 1100 to 2011 has been painstakingly put together by museum society committee member Rodger Gallagher.

As the society’s digital co-ordinator, Rodger will also be responsible for installing a video system a little further down the track with access to iconic movie clips and stills from the likes of ‘Endless Summer’ and the recently released ‘Last Paradise’ by Clive Neeson, which has footage from 40-odd years ago when he was growing up here.
The building, which makes extensive use of macrocarpa internally, includes a library and research area downstairs and an office-cum-meeting room next to it.

Both have sea views, leaving the darker interior of the museum for exhibits best kept out of direct sunlight.
However the building’s only large picture window that shows off its stunning water frontage is at the entrance to the museum which it shares with that of the i-site.

Pat says the museum — in which video surveillance cameras have just been installed — will be a huge asset to Raglan, which he describes as now an “internationally recognised” town.

But good things can come at a cost. Because the museum society is a non-profit charity which receives no operational funding from local or central government, a fee of $2 for adults and $1 for children will be charged at the door from this coming Sunday.

Saturday’s free look-around precedes an official opening to be performed by Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson at an unconfirmed date.

However there will still be an element of formality on Saturday, with an early morning blessing by representatives of Ngati Mahanga to welcome taonga or treasured artefacts to the new museum. Everyone is welcome to attend the 7am ceremony, Pat says, and can tour the building from 10am when the relocated i-site opens its doors.