Wellington, New Zealand – June 28, 2018
I wanted to visit the Wellington Museum. For some reason, the timing never seemed to be right. That changed yesterday.
Leslie and I walked to the train station near our home and rode the light rail to the central Wellington railway station. Exiting the train, we walked to the waterfront and then mainly south toward the museum. Just before gaining the harbor, I stopped to photograph the Hotel Waterloo building. The building, finished in 1937, has a definite art deco style. It is one of several art deco style buildings in the Wellington CBD.
The first business we walked by was MADINZ. It is a store selling New Zealand tourist items and collectibles. What caught our eye were the two Shih Tzu dogs inside by the front door. When we walked in, the younger of the two, Oscar, became very excited. Leslie stopped and petted Oscar. As we began to wander around the store, the dog settled down. The items for sale were very high quality. We did not buy anything only because we already have a lot of New Zealand souvenirs.
As we walked farther, we came to the building at 1 Queen’s Wharf. It is an old harbor office building dating from 1896. Maybe the most well-known business there today is the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. We did walk in and take a quick look at the items on display at the Academy. We did not spend much time because much of what we saw was too modern for our taste.
At the south end of 1 Queen’s Wharf, in between that building and the Wellington Museum, one can see a set of entry gates to the wharf area. The gates date from 1899. I found the seal on the entrance to be quite whimsical.
Finally, we had reached our goal; the Wellington Museum. The museum is in the 1892 Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store. It is a Victorian-style building designed by the same architect as 1 Queen’s Wharf. The bond store was a warehouse that stored goods imported to New Zealand as the customs fees and paperwork process was complete.
As with so many of the museums in this country, there is no set entry fee. There is simply a place to leave a donation. The quaint museum does an outstanding job of taking one through the maritime history of Wellington from the mid-to-late nineteenth century up to today.
The ground floor houses exhibits in a timeline fashion, highlighting many years past. A few of the exhibits that caught my eye included replica crown jewels, a 1958 diorama, and several peace sign emblems. The gems were reproductions made for display at the 1939-1940 Centennial Exhibition. I do not recall the significance of the diorama other than it depicted 1958…say no more. The peace signs date from 1982. They were part of the nuclear-free New Zealand protests at that time. The protests came to a head with the visit of the USS Truxtun. The United States at the time would neither confirm nor deny any nuclear capabilities of the cruiser. Decommissioned in 1995, we now know the boat was nuclear powered. The Truxtun was the last U.S. ship to visit New Zealand until the USS Sampson visited in 2016.
The first and second levels delve into the maritime history of Wellington, New Zealand. The most poignant area of the museum deals with the Wahine sinking on April 10, 1968. The movie in the museum is painful to watch. At least 51 people lost their lives that day. An additional two died later, bringing the toll to 53. The disaster happened during one of the worst cyclones to ever hit New Zealand.
As Leslie and I walked up the stairs to the Attic level of the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the diagonal bracing of the building. I may very well be the only person ever to do that!
The Attic is a beautiful, hands-on portion of the museum. I believe we enjoyed those exhibits the most. If we had visited the Wellington Museum earlier in our posting, I am sure we would have returned. It is well worth the visit.
Leaving the museum, it was time for lunch. We ended up at the München Food Hall and Bier Haus. We both opted for a rueben sandwich on rye and a liter of beer. Yes, you read correctly, a full liter of beer each. That may not have been the best decision we have made lately… Regardless, I thought the food was excellent.
When we left the restaurant, I wanted to walk to a photography store nearby. On the way, we passed near Wellington’s Civic Square. As we got closer, I remembered that a new Ferns orb sculpture was erected the previous day. I walked into the square, and sure enough, the orb was there, suspended above the square. It is an impressive sculpture. The artist is Neil Dawson. He had a similar sculpture in place earlier, but it was taken down. This new sculpture has a stronger internal structure.
After visiting the photography store, we walked back to the Wellington Railway station to catch a train back home. The railway building is another from the art deco era. It dates from about 1937. The front of the station is easily recognizable by the tall Doric columns at the main entry.
We found a train leaving in about five minutes. We got on and rode the 20-minutes or so to our train station. Then it was a short walk home. All totaled, we walked about four miles, so we were both ready for a nap even though it was late in the day.