Posted on Monday January 11, 2021
Tairawhiti Museum and the associated C Company Maori Battalion Memorial House form a must-see Gisborne attraction. Thanks in part to generous local donors, the museum has a variety of interesting galleries. For me, highlights included the Jack Richards room which, among other things, houses his substantial donation of Lalique glass. Another fascinating exhibition, Places and Faces, is a collection of early twentieth century photographs of houses with family members standing outside, taken by a photographer who would knock on the door of the house to suggest the photo and come back later hoping to sell copies. The photographic plates were found years later under a house being demolished. There is also the wheelhouse and captain’s cabin from the Star of Canada, a ship wrecked on the Gisborne foreshore in 1912. It was donated in the 1980s. The most amazing items for me were 37 taonga taken overseas up to 250 years ago, some on the Endeavour. They had been returned recently, largely as the result of determined effort by local iwi.
Adjacent to the main building is the memorial to the Maori Battalion’s C Company which included some 900 recruits from the Tairawhiti district. Not only are there named individual photos of almost all these battalion members, but also of the more than 60 wharenui that they came from. Together with the repatriated taonga these really emphasized the extent of the district’s Maori heritage and large, vibrant Maori community.
Feature image provided by D & E Barker