Hundreds gathered in the pre-dawn darkness in front of Whanganui Regional Museum for its blessing and re-dedication yesterday.

The museum was closed for earthquake strengthening and other improvements in October 2016. It re-opens to the public at 10am on March 16, with full day of music and events.

The dawn ceremony on March 15 was invitation only, and was an occasion full of ritual and symbolism, first-term museum trustee Karen Wrigglesworth said.

There was a pōwhiri with karanga, the swish of piupiu and flourish of taiaha - until the knock on the museum door, when the crowd could enter.


Indoors there were speeches and song, all in te reo Māori. One of the speakers was Marshall Tangaroa, the chairman of the museum's governing Joint Council.

People circulated the upper and lower floors, acknowledging and "putting life into" objects important to them. Stones from particular parts of the Whanganui River had been brought, and were placed together.

It was clear to Wrigglesworth that the museum was very special to people.

"I think people are very glad to have it back. It felt like part of Whanganui that's been missing for a little while. It's refreshed, but it's back," she said.

After that a huge full breakfast was served to everyone in the Whanganui War Memorial Centre - and the singing continued.