First step towards museum upgrade

Pictured during last week’s meeting are, from left, CHCT trustee Grant Middlemiss, Cambridge Museum manager Kathryn Parsons, Ngati Koroki Kahukuru representative Hinerangi Kara, Community Board chairman and CHCT trustee Mike Pettit, CHCT chairperson Eric Hill, Community Board member Julie Epps, and CHCT trustee Bruce Hancock.

A proposed $2.4 million extension to the Cambridge Museum, intended to protect the town’s stories for future generations, has been given an early ‘thumbs up’ by the Cambridge Community Board (CCB).

Support for the project was pledged by CCB chairperson Mike Pettit and other Board members at the first CCB meeting of 2018, held on February 7.

The nod came after Cambridge Heritage Charitable Trust (CHCT) chairperson Eric Hill gave the project its first public airing. Together with fellow trustees Grant Middlemiss and Bruce Hancock, he outlined proposals to extend the existing building and create a new complex to be called The Cambridge Museum and Heritage Centre.

Mike Pettit is also a CHCT trustee, as is local historian Tony Gainsford.

The next step for the project, which has been three years in the planning, is a presentation to the Waipa District Council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee on March 7.  If it receives council endorsement, further discussions will be held around money previously set aside in the district long term plan for a Cambridge Museum upgrade, and an independent party will be asked to produce a comprehensive feasibility study.

From there, it will be onto the fundraising stage, with 2020 earmarked as the projected completion date for the complex.

The Cambridge Heritage Charitable Trust was formed in August 2016 to work in association with the Cambridge Historical Society on plans to extend the museum. While the property and building are owned and maintained by the council, who also meet operating costs through an annual grant, the Historical Society owns the museum’s artefacts and material and has managed the museum since 2016.

An early sketch of the proposed interior of the museum, done by Rotorua-based museum displays designer Chris Currie.

Eric told the CCB meeting that it was anticipated funding for the proposed extension would be met by a combination of council heritage funds, national heritage funds, support via grants and sponsors, and local and national fundraising.  He said various groups linked to museum displays, including local iwi, would be approached to help.

Hinerangi Kara, who represented Ngati Koroki Kahukuru at the meeting, expressed support for the project, saying it would help bring the area’s Maori stories to a wider audience.

“Cambridge’s rich history needs to be preserved and available to future generations. Much of it cannot be held within our current museum structure,” Eric said. “A priceless part of the collection is stored in what can only be described as a fibrolite shed at the back of the museum. Other exhibits are stored in the old jailhouse, and more are housed elsewhere around Cambridge.

“The display space we have now is too small … work space is shockingly small. A large part of our collection is in peril.”

Museum admissions have grown by 150 percent over the 18 months, an increase Eric attributed to efforts of Cambridge Museum manager Kathryn Parsons and her team.

He told last week’s meeting that while nothing was “set in concrete” at this stage, much work had already been done. Trustee Bruce Hancock, a retired civil engineer, has been managing the design aspects, and local architect Antanas Procuta has done concept design drawings. Well-known museum displays designed Chris Currie has completed sketches around how the interior might look.

Plans are for the new building to house displays and the required high-tech archival storage, with additional space provided for workshop requirements, travelling exhibitions, reception and office areas, toilets, and storage and quarantine areas.

Eric said by bringing this project to fruition, Cambridge would at last qualify to host travelling exhibitions, such as those mounted around elsewhere by Te Papa.

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