150 years of collecting history
A ‘nucleus for a museum’ was born in a glass case in Tauranga in 1873 in the town’s Mechanics’ Institute. Eight years later this small beginning was lost in a fire which sadly destroyed the building and devastated the town.
Undeterred, artefacts continued to be collected and were displayed in the Institute’s new building. Although a large art and history exhibition, which included 100 taonga from Captain Gilbert Mair’s collection, was displayed in Tauranga in 1882, no permanent home for these and other important treasures could be found. In 1906 the Mechanics’ Institute was given to the Borough Council and its name changed to the Tauranga Public Library.
In 1938 a museum exhibition was displayed in the Town Hall. The Bay of Plenty Times reported that it was an excellent collection of material. However, with the outbreak of WW2 space in the Hall was needed and the collection was packed up and secured away in its internal walls, presumably to protect it from enemy invasion. It remained hidden until 1959 when objects were either given to the Auckland War Memorial Museum or returned to donors.
Concerned that the town’s heritage was being lost, in 1969 the Tauranga Historical Society approached the Council for support to open a museum. The Society provided a list of objects proving that there was a need for a museum and the Council agreed, giving them a building on the corner of Hamilton and Durham Streets. The city’s museum collection was born.
This museum proved so successful that the collection quickly outgrew the site and in 1975 the Tauranga Historic Village and District Museum was opened at the bottom of 17th Avenue. With the support of the community the collection grew rapidly and ownership was transferred to the Tauranga City Council. However, in 1998, it was decided to close the village and store the collection n anticipation of a new museum opening in 2002.
Although the Tauranga Heritage Collection has been in storage for the past 20 years, work on it continues and access to the collection is available through publications, displays and exhibitions and by exploring the collection online.