It’s October – and Auckland Heritage Festival invites you to “take another look at the Auckland you normally go past.” For the first half of the month, heritage groups and museums across the Shore are doing their bit to make sure that residents and visitors have plenty of opportunities to stop and learn more about the rich social, political and industrial history of the area.
It is opportune that the recently completed makeover of Devonport Museum features on Choice TV’s Heritage Rescue programme on the 7th and 14th of this month. Heritage Rescue follows the intricacies of the amazing makeover this highly regarded museum underwent over a manic period of six days in late April, and should provide impetus to visitors to call in and see the specially designed and researched displays of Devonport’s transport history set up specially for the Heritage Festival.
Devonport Museum president Alastair Fletcher says the approach by the Heritage Rescue programme came out of the blue and at very short notice – but was an opportunity for the museum to welcome in professional museum designers to help rationalise the museum’s displays. With just three days’ notice of the opportunity, and the day after the Museum committee agreed to go ahead, 25-30 volunteers gathered for a morning briefing. They then began to take everything off the walls and out of display cases, and to shift major displays, ready to repaint the entire museum and set up new and more coherent displays to tell Devonport’s stories. For six days, says Alastair, “we were there from 7am to 10.30pm” painting, creating new display boards to cover unused windows and generally following the guidelines of the Heritage Recue team. In the background eth museums’s volunteer researchers worked to develop new display cards and informational signage, designed by the Heritage Rescue designers.
“There are so many heritage stories to tell,” says Alastair. “Inviting in Heritage Rescue helped us declutter and focus on our priorities in storytelling and interpreting our heritage for everyone.’
With its new look now complete and displays and signage in place, the museum is flying the flag for the industrial and transport heritage of the area, with displays about the transport history of the Devonport peninsula. (Just one fascinating fact: the first ferries - open sailing cutters - ran between downtown Auckland and Devonport in the 1840s, to be replaced by the first paddle steamer in 1860.) You can also explore the rich boat-building industry that thrived along the Devonport waterfront by picking up a free walking map of Devonport boat-building sites at the museum, and heading off to explore what was in its heyday an industrial and maritime hub.
In Takapuna, you can use The PumpHouse, which opened in 1906 to supply water to the burgeoning population, as the starting point for a self-guided walk around the lake following the history banners. The banners feature snippets of historical information about the lake, Takapuna, and the old building's life as a pumping station, and also mark the 40th anniversary of its transformation into a performing arts venue. Since the first performance in the theatre in 1977 (an almost interminably long presentation of Euripides’ Elektra), the theatre space has hosted thousands of productions, workshops, classes and has nurtured generations of local artists and audiences.
Milford, like Devonport Museum, highlights the transport history of the area, with a one-day event presented by the Milford Residents Association. At the Senior Citizens Hall on Milford Road, from 11am to 4pm, there’s an exhibition of heritage photos of Milford and the North Shore with the theme of transport and waterways, from trains and boats to motorways, alongside a model railway display by members of the Auckland Marklin Club. You can also introduce the “screen generation” to how toys used to be, through the vintage toy display. And organisers would not only love to see your treasured vintage toys, but a vintage toy expert will be available from noon to 2pm to assess and value your old toys, Antiques Roadshow style.
It’s going to be hard to go past Birkenhead’s past during the Festival. Birkenhead has curated a programme of guided walks, horse rides and music by vintage jazz groups to take you on an ‘Op Shop Hop’ around the Highbury shopping centre, while you enjoy the local restaurants and bars (feel free to wear your best vintage outfit) or admire a collection of vintage cars.