It's hoped a new permanent exhibition at Thames Museum Te Whare Taonga o te Kauaeranga will represent all the district's inhabitants and mark the move away from "the image of a European-centric settlers' museum".
The new Taonga Māori Gallery, created in full consultation with Ngati Maru iwi, will open this Saturday, July 2. A blessing will be held at 6am followed by the official opening at 9.30am where all are welcome.
"This has been one of the museum's ambitions for many years, and actively under preparation since the beginning of 2021," says museum chairwoman Carolyn McKenzie.
A wide range of taonga will be on display in a bilingual gallery, including pieces relating to agriculture and fishing and a model of a fortified pā.
Carolyn says they had a "desire to represent all the inhabitants of our district rather than only tell the story of the arrival of James Cook and the history of the goldfields ... to move away from the image of a European-centric settlers' museum".
She says it's hoped this new permanent display will be a drawcard to locals and visitors alike and become a valuable asset for school pupils of all ages.
Schools will gain the opportunity to learn about many aspects of life in this area before the arrival of Europeans through the use of storyboards that cover games, music, and pā construction.
"On behalf of all the volunteers, tradespeople and advisors who have worked with us over the last 18 months, I am delighted that we have completed the project in spite of the pandemic and that we can now open it to the public."
There is no cost on opening day. After this, it will cost $5 which is the normal entry fee.
"On opening day, if there are a lot of people, we will have to move them through the gallery fairly quickly," says Carolyn.
Small groups will be guided through the gallery. These guides will be volunteers associated with the museum and in particular those who have been involved in preparing the new gallery.
The museum is located at 503 Cochrane St, Thames, and is open Monday to Saturday 10am-1pm, closed on Sundays except during public holidays and school holidays.