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Taonga from Te Akau now housed in museum

Raglan Museum became the new home last Saturday of what’s believed to have been the largest private collection of artefacts in the country.

Iwi from both Raglan and Te Akau — Ngati Mahanga and Ngati Tahinga — met at the museum for a ceremony to bless the taonga or treasures, boxed and transported just that morning by road from Birds Bay where locals Tony Bruce and Ian Hardie have held them in an unsecured farm shed since buying their coastal property several years ago.

Kaumatua Russell Riki said the move of the collection was a day when all iwi in the area came together as one. And he believed the power of Saturday’s storm was a good sign.

Raglan & District Museum Society president Pat Day, sporting “dirty boots and even dirtier car” after the windy trip around from Te Akau in stormy weather, acknowledged the privilege of having the mainly stone and bone artefacts — and one sizeable kiwi egg — now in the museum’s care.

He thanked Ngati Tahinga for allowing the collection to leave their area, the locals for looking after the treasures meantime and the Bird family who farmed there from the early 20th century — displaying their finds in cabinets in a small museum — for giving their collection to the Museum Society as a longtime indefinite loan.

“It is grand to have it,” Pat told those at the hour-long ceremony, adding he’d known of the collection for many years and that it would indeed enhance the museum.

The society’s two priorities now, he told the Chronicle, were to fundraise so this new reserve collection could be displayed to advantage and to work with archeological examination of the artefacts.

Archaeologist Neville Ritchie from the Department of Conservation earlier described the collection as probably New Zealand’s largest collection in private hands, and as “nationally significant … providing a special insight into the Maori activity in that area in the past.

“The fact it is a localised collection (ie we know where the artefacts came from) makes it much more significant from a cultural and archaeological perspective.”

Edith Symes

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