Okains Bay Museum

Okains Bay Museum

In many ways, the Okains Bay Museum is similar to many small community museums dotted around NZ that tell local stories, typically dating back to the first European settlers and how they lived. But it is more than that, largely thanks to its founder, Murray Thacker.

Murray was a third generation local who grew up in Okains Bay. He developed an avid interest in Māori taonga and as a teenager acquired two collections that had been fossicked from around the region in the 1930s and 1940s. He also fossicked himself before it became illegal.

As an adult, he managed his own farm but continued to develop his private collection at home, including a collection of Māori waka (canoes). In the late 1960s, the closure of the local cheese factory provided the opportunity to establish a proper museum. This took another 9 years and included the relocation and restoration of historic buildings and the construction of the Whakaata, Pātaka and the Whare Taonga by Māori craftsmen. One oddity, which is well to the back of the property, is a turn of the 20th century grandstand!

Today the museum has one of the best collections of Māori taonga and settlement-era artefacts and buildings outside of the major metropolitan museums. It also does a great job of telling the stories of early Māori and Europeans, their experiences, and how they lived day to day.

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