Ashburton District is lucky to have a wealth of museums – from the relatively large Ashburton Museum, Aviation, Vintage Car, Lynn Woodworking and Plains Vintage Railway and Historical Museums, to the relatively small Staveley Museum, Mt Somers’ Foothills Museum, and Corwar Lodge near Barrhill.
The Methven Heritage Centre includes several museum activities, including the New Zealand Alpine and Agriculture Encounter, New Zealand Ski Heritage Museum and Hall of Memories.
Then there’s the recently updated Methven Museum and Fire Museum, and the Ashburton Art Gallery.
But the smallest museum in the district must definitely be the Rakaia Huts Museum. While just a tiny one room building, it’s packed with interesting material on the Rakaia Huts area.
The Rakaia Huts Museum is also affectionately known as the ‘brick hut’.
Made of brick with a corrugated gable roof, it was built to a simple, symmetrical design with a central front door, two windows and a fireplace and chimney at one end.
The hut was built about 1906 for use by men working on the roads and used as a shelter and picnic area for fishermen and the public.
Today, on the front door hangs a sign that says ‘Museum’, and inside there’s a wealth of information, photos and newspaper clippings about both the history of the hut and the area.
Much of the work to turn the once dilapidated hut into a museum was completed by local volunteers in the late 1990s, including Bill and Mary Goodenough, Janice Dent and Bev Oakley.
There was much to do. The hut had been used to store equipment and materials used for flood protection work that local bach owners had used to protect their properties from high rivers.
It was a big team effort but the hut was soon cleaned out, restored, and painted inside and out. It also gained a new concrete floor and floor coverings. With the addition of historical information, furniture and scene setting, two years of dedicated work and research came to fruition.
The Museum was officially opened to the public again on Waitangi Day 1998.
Over twenty years later the Museum is still a great spot to visit. The walls are lined with stories that tell of local events large and small.
Major floods hit the area many times over the years. These local events are described through people’s stories of the challenges and perseverance of managing these destructive events.
Photos and the words of the people themselves help bring these stories and experiences to life.
One big local project carried out over years was to ensure good flood protection. In memory of this, outside the building in a peaceful spot under a tree is a memorial to Doug Hood, ‘who through his determination, commitment and dedication ensured the security of the settlement from flood damage’.
On a happier note, the hut is clearly a place with many fond memories and experiences.
Candid images capture sunny days and just some of the many families who have enjoyed and spent time at the hut, sharing meals, fun and adventures in a social setting. Its obvious that many good times were had here.
By Tanya Zoe Robinson
This article was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, on the 5th of November 2019.
- The interior of the Museum sets the scene for its past uses as a shelter for fishermen, friends and families.
- Rakaia Huts Museum seen from the outside.
- Part of the interior of the Museum hut, with displays telling the story of the hut and the local area.
- A photo the Shultz family enjoying an outing to the hut in 1934. Left to right: Les, Norman, Emily and Marge (wife of Ray) Shultz.