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The Museum is Turning 40!

by | Dec 4, 2019 | Museum Articles

Article first published in The Informer

With Christmas only a few weeks away, thoughts tend to turn towards the upcoming festivities and our social calendars move into higher gear. Here at the Mercury Bay Museum we are ready to celebrate as well as the Museum is turning 40!

In December 1979 the Mercury Bay Museum was officially opened after a five-year fundraising effort to purchase the old Mercury Bay Dairy Company factory.

Here is a little bit about the history of the museum (as compiled from notes prepared in1976 and 1977, and also notes made by William (Bill) Lee).

It was first proposed in 1971 by Sir Kenneth and Lady Margaret Myers that the then vacant dairy factory in Whitianga be used as a museum. From this a fundraising project was instigated by the then president of the Whitianga Lions Club, Murray Spear. The first donation came in 1974 and a museum was formed. In September 1974, Toby Morcom, President of the Lions’ museum committee, met with the Mercury Bay Dairy Company directors and a price was placed on the building. Agreement was also reached on the donation of the butter churn and the old brass whistle, which was originally owned and used by the Kauri Timber Mill.

In April 1976 an early settler’s exhibition was held in the Whitianga Town Hall to help with the fundraising. The first displays to be installed in the old dairy factory were placed in the forefront of the factory building, in the old can washing area, and was opened to the public on 24 December 1976. By this time $27,000 had been raised.

In June 1977, the sum raised had increased to $35,000, with the donation of $10,000 formerly pledged by Lady Myers. Hundreds of donations came in from the general public. By September 1978, enough was raised to complete the final agreement with the Mercury Bay Dairy Company and a deed of trust was signed.

The official opening of the museum was a testament to the goodwill in the local community and also to the generosity and persistence of the community. There were some who said that it could not be done, only to be proved wrong!

The whole building became available to the Mercury Bay Museum in 1997 and the lean to was closed in in 1998 to become a display area. An archival unit was constructed out of an old water tank upstairs at the rear of the building.

So, to celebrate with the local community, we are holding a free community open day at the Mercury Bay Museum on Sunday 8 December from 10:00am to 4:00pm. There will be a free sausage sizzle, face painting and some old-fashioned games. Come and join in celebrating with us!

See you all soon
Becs Cox – Manager

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