Raglan’s new million-dollar museum is finally officially open — and with the help of a donation confirmed just last week, a start can be made soon on setting up the drawcard that will set the museum apart from others, an exhibition of surfing history.
The sounds of the local pipe band welcomed more than 100 guests on Monday to what Raglan & District Museum Society president Pat Day described as a “fine new building some years in the making and dreaming”.
The guests — including descendants of early settlers, museum society members, tangata whenua, the community, councillors, council staff and the museum’s designers and builders — were told by various speakers of how that dream came to fruition before Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson cut a yellow ribbon to declare Raglan’s latest attraction open.
The swanky museum and information centre, which celebrates Whaingaroa’s bicultural history, is a far cry from the front room of the town hall — now Raglan Radio’s headquarters — where Raglan’s first museum was set up in 1970.
And while the ground floor of the new waterfront museum is now all but full of local artefacts and taonga from the past 100 years, Mr Day revealed to guests that he’d learned only late last week of a $20,000 grant from the Hamilton-based Gallagher Group to help set up an exhibition of surfing history on the mezzanine floor.
He said the new exhibition would be a fitting tribute to an “internationally recognised” surfing town.
Mr Day also thanked museum society stalwarts Rodger and Virginia Gallagher for their “stamina” in seeing the project, begun several years ago, through to its success today. He acknowledged too the presence of Esma Ansley, who at 89 is the society’s oldest member born and bred in Raglan.
Although the Raglan museum was housed in the town hall for 12 years, it zwas to occupy the old fire station building on Wainui Road for a further 28 years. That was demolished only in 2010 and exhibits put into storage.
Mayor Allan Sanson acknowledged on Monday those humble beginnings. It had taken “many hands, heads and hearts working over several years” to get the museum to where it was today, he said — a major attraction for both locals and visitors, and a great asset to the town.
Sponsors and funders were thanked, along with individuals and organisations. Raglan ward councillor Clint Baddeley told guests he couldn’t remember a time when so many had contributed to a project, and paid particular tribute to the Beach-Kelly family for contributing funding early on.
But Rodger Gallagher reminded the Chronicle it was Councillor Baddeley and former Raglan Community Board chairperson Peter Storey’s joint decision to sell redundant road reserves that had provided the $300,000 foundation funding. From this the project gradually came to fruition, he said.
Major funders of the project included Waikato District Council, the DV Bryant Trust, the Lotteries Heritage Commission, the Beach-Kelly family, Trust Waikato, the Wel Energy Trust, the Petchell Trust and the Raglan & District Museum Society.
The new museum and information centre has actually been open to the public since last November, when an early morning ceremony was held to bless taonga or treasures on site. It was built by Hamilton-based Livingston Construction but overseen by Raglan local Andy White.
*Raglan Museum and Information Centre is open to the public every day except Christmas Day.