There will be lots of familiar and objects in Whanganui's museum when it re-opens - but the experience should seem new and refreshed, director Frank Stark says.

"You can't say anything has been kept. Everything has been changed in some way."

Whanganui Regional Museum re-opens to the public on March 16.

On March 15 there are two opening events for invited people. First, at 5am, a blessing and rededication, followed by a celebratory breakfast. Then, at 5.30pm, a plaque unveiling and preview of exhibitions, followed by refreshments.


Stark won't say much about the exhibitions prepared for opening day - except that one of them will be a very special boat.

The museum closed for earthquake strengthening in October 2016. It was at just 6 per cent of the new building standard for public buildings.

First, it was emptied of its contents. Then, at the beginning of 2017, W&W Construction began the $2.2 million strengthening job paid for by Whanganui District Council. They also did some important maintenance, including putting on a new roof.

In the oldest building, steel was added to stiffen the walls. The newer 1968 building was relined with timber framing to hold panels in place.

The work raised the earthquake strength to 34 per cent of the standard for public buildings - enough to ensure no one would die in an earthquake and most of the building would survive.

"There was no practical way to do better than that. The building is massive. It's standing on sand and you can only do so much," Stark said.

Staff got the building back in early 2018. They had raised another $1.2 million for further work. It got a complete rewire, pristine new walls, an audiovisual room that seats 20, an enlarged shop, a temporary exhibitions gallery and a revamped Lindauer gallery.

Storerooms were improved, with airconditioning for natural history and taonga Māori areas, and a photographic storeroom.


The exhibitions still concentrate on uniquely Whanganui objects - such as the beaked whale George Shepherd brought home on the roof of a train, moa bones and the Duncan dolls' house.

The new layout would enable more of the collection to be seen, Stark said, and enable the museum to host touring shows.

While the main building was closed, the museum operated in a temporary space on Ridgway St. It had 30,000 visitors for that year, compared to the usual 60,000.