Explore behind the scenes this Heritage Month

Published on October 02, 2020


Whanganui District Council is getting into the swing of Heritage Month this October by giving people the chance to explore the heritage behind the scenes at a number of council properties.

Council Heritage Advisor, Scott Flutey, says there’s something to suit everyone with an interest in heritage in this year’s varied programme.

Bookings are essential, even for free events, so make sure you go to the Heritage Trust website to download a programme with full event details, including how to book tickets (www.whanganuiheritagetrust.org.nz) or pick up a programme from cafes, the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua or the Regional Museum.

Read on for council-related Heritage Month events.

Council Chamber

On Saturday, 3 October and Saturday, 10 October the Council Chamber will open for free guided tours of the 23 stained glass windows which ring the Council Chamber and are known collectively as The Whanganui Story – Ngā Kōrero Hītori o te Hapori.

Councillor Helen Craig, who inaugurated Heritage Month, says, “Through viewing these stunning windows, and hearing the stories that go with them, people will gain a unique glimpse into the eclectic mix of some of the local people, places and events that shaped Whanganui from early Māori settlement to current times.”

Ward Observatory

The council-owned Ward Observatory – one of the oldest New Zealand observatories established by an amateur astronomer – will open for free talks on Tuesday, 6 October and Tuesday, 20 October.

Cr Helen Craig says, “It’s remarkable that this observatory, a Category I Heritage New Zealand listed place, is still in use more than 100 years after it was built."  

The talks will delve into the scintillating history of the observatory and its role in astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century.

Royal Wanganui Opera House

The Royal Wanganui Opera House will be getting in on the act, running tours on Monday, 12 October, Monday, 19 October and Tuesday, 27 October.

Opera House Ticketing and Tour Co-ordinator, Nikki Moore, says during the tour participants will hear about the fascinating 120-year-old history of the iconic theatre and get “a sneak peek behind the curtain”.

“It’s a chance to learn about the construction of the Opera House and find out about some of the building’s unique features and history,” Nikki Moore says.

 She says the Opera House has been running as a theatre continuously since opening in 1900, staging thousands of productions over the years.

 “The building has also been through a number of its own dramas – it’s survived three fires – and we have our own resident ghost!” 

Whanganui Regional Museum

Whanganui Regional Museum offers an opportunity to explore our history in depth with a free Ngā Wai Honohono tour on Wednesday, 7 October and Wednesday, 14 October, led by programmes presenter, Lisa Reweti.

Lisa Reweti says, “During the Ngā Wai Honohono tour participants will see the most ornately carved and longest waka taua (war canoe) in the region as well as the only full set of traditional tā moko tools left in the world.

"The tools have a special connection to me because they belonged to my great-great-grandfather, Haimona Te Utupoto.”

The museum is also offering free tours of its social and natural history galleries on Wednesday, 14 October and Wednesday, 28 October, led by Acting Director, Libby Sharpe.

Highlights of the tour are the moa bones from the largest intact collection in one region, the iconic sunfish, which is the largest on display in New Zealand, and the internationally significant beaked whale collection.

Lisa Reweti says, “The centrepiece of the beaked whale collection is the rare Shepherd’s beaked whale. George Shepherd, museum curator in the 1930s, collected the specimen from the South Taranaki coast and realised he was looking at a new species of whale when he assembled the bones.”

 Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua

The Sarjeant’s Relationships Officer, Jaki Arthur, says, “The Sarjeant Gallery loves Heritage Month! Not only does it give us the chance to deep dive into the history of the Sarjeant itself, and all the characters connected to it, but also of course into the collection, which covers over 400 years of art history.

“This year for Heritage Month we’ve gone to town on the notorious ‘Whanganui Incident’ where Whanganui Mayor Charles Mackay shot and wounded poet Walter D’Arcy Cresswell 100 years ago.”

On Friday, 23 October a lively discussion about the Whanganui Incident will be held between Mayor Hamish McDouall, the author and historian Paul Diamond, and playwright David Charteris at the Davis Lecture Theatre on Watt Street. Then on Saturday, 24 October and Sunday, 25 October the Sarjeant will host performances of David Charteris’ play, One of Them, which looks at how the incident happened and the consequences for all involved.

Curator Jennifer Taylor Moore will run two free talks – on Tuesday, 6 October she will repeat her illustrated talk on renowned early Whanganui photographer, Frank Denton, and on Saturday, 31 October you can join her for a tour of the gallery's collection store, celebrating the spring theme of Heritage Month by looking at some of the botanical works in the collection.

On Sunday, 18 October Jaki Arthur will discuss the life of Reverend Richard Taylor with Huia Kirk, who has completed a Post Graduate Diploma on Taylor and his influence on early Whanganui.

 Council Heritage Advisor tours

In his role as Council Heritage Advisor, Scott Flutey will run two tours for Heritage Month. The first is the Durie Hill Garden Suburb Ramble on Sunday, 11 October, “exploring what is often called New Zealand’s first modern suburb, a landmark in town planning”.

The second tour is the Whanganui Arts and Crafts Movement Ramble on Saturday, 31 October.

Scott Flutey says, “Whanganui was a leading centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement early last century and our arts scene today is in part a legacy of that time.

“The Arts and Crafts style imprinted on our architecture, design and social history landscape and we will be exploring some significant stories and key inner city sites.”


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