Our place: Kapiti Coast Museum
Kapiti Coast Museum was the Waikanae Post Office. Built in 1907, it was part of the growing Kāpiti Coast town of Waikanae, then called Parata Township.
Te Rangatira Wiremu Te Kākākura Parata, Ngāti Toa, Te Āti Awa, a Member of Parliament and Minister of the Crown, was a man of vision who gave land to the railways, and oversaw the rail going through the tiny town ensuring provision for every train to stop there.
He moved the marae close to the rail and fostered the new township and so the Post Office was built minutes’ walk from the historic station which brings so many visitors to our doorstep.
In 1981 the post office was moved to the new town centre and a group of men, ardent radio collectors, acquired the building for the Waikanae Museum – now Kapiti Coast Museum – rented by us from our local Council who keep it in trim.
It is actually a museum of two halves. In the back, we honour our five founders with the Radio Room and the Ham Shack – where their lovingly gathered radios and militaria have been rescued from the back sheds of Kāpiti. At the front, is the social history of the region – the lovely textiles, the 1930s schoolroom and kitchen, and a cosy reading area complete with a rocking chair, where researchers can sit and browse and if time allows read some of the 100 year old magazines.
Run by a management committee of volunteers who work in teams with the help of our Friends, we plan exhibitions for the year. We all chip in to do the cleaning (always needed) and use a card index to record who does what so we don’t overlap. Our shiny little museum often elicits the remark ‘Oh, it doesn’t smell like a museum’ (well done, the many volunteer housekeepers!).
Our committee is structured with each of us having our ‘field’ – Maintenance, Marketing, Exhibitions, Treasurer, Secretary, IT. We are led by Chairman, Mark Holland, who recently retired from being curator of the Reserve Bank Museum, and advised by Carolyn Krebs, curator, archivist and collections manager. Carolyn, a paid employee, is on hand during our opening hours for visitor enquiries.
Our new exhibition for 2020 is 'Whānau' in liaison with our local iwi, Te Āti Awa. It honours the whānau of Wi Parata who began it all and includes Te Kahe, who swam from Kāpiti Island with her child on her back to warn of an impending war party. This flows on to the history of whaling on the Coast complete with whale oil pot from the island. Our main permanent exhibition is Octavius Hadfield, a ‘missionary’ history of the Kāpiti Coast.
We are ideally placed – a few minutes’ walk from that historic station, right across the road from award winning cafe Relish and next door to a beautiful park with playground perfect for summer picnics. We attract almost 2000 visitors annually from all over our beautiful country and the world. Waikanae itself was awarded ‘Most Beautiful Large Town 2015’. We are open Friday to Sunday from 1 to 4pm (and will open anytime for booked tours). We look forward to welcoming you to, what a visitor from Hong Kong called, ‘The Little Museum that Could.’
This story was originally published in Museums Aotearoa Quarterly March 2020 and has been edited for an online readership.