While the effects of the January floods were devastating for many, in good news Te Awaroa Helensville Museum came through them unscathed, despite the buildings being sited on a flood plain on a former rubbish dump beside the Kaipara River.
Vice President Leigh Bosch explained she and other museum volunteers made fixing water issues a priority when working to restore the precious buildings, archives and artefacts after the discovery in 2019 that the collection was endangered by borer and other pests, and the heritage buildings were in urgent need of repair.
“When we started, as well as tell-tale puddles of water there was a pervasive smell of mould and you couldn’t see where it was coming from, “said Leigh. Thanks to roofs, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, spaces underneath floors and drainage being checked and water-proofed in the restoration, the museum and its collection now have a much better chance when severe weather events like the January storms hit.
In just one example, one taonga in the collection that is safe and dry is a beautiful embroidered velvet cushion made by Janet Drinnan, who brought it with her when she and her husband William immigrated to Aotearoa in 1860. As a hotel, shop and landowner Janet became one of Kaukapakapa’s leading lights. Known as “the Mother of Kaukapakapa”, she has many descendants in the wider district. The cushion was unearthed recently by textile specialist Jo Dixey, who is working with fellow specialist Katriona Main to restore and re-catalogue the museum’s textiles after they have been through the pest extermination process.