Founders Heritage Park - a must do on your next visit to Nelson
As a name, Founders Heritage Park is an incredibly accurate description of the place. The park is filled with a beautifully maintained collection of heritage buildings, detailing the founding of industries and organisations in Nelson.
On a recent visit to Nelson to talk to heritage and historical organisations in the Nelson-Tasman region about Our Health Journeys, I had arranged to spend an afternoon at Founders Heritage Park.
The park contains a beautifully maintained collection of heritage buildings, detailing the founding of industries and organisations in Nelson. It is a place with appeal for a range of interests including brewing, cycling, transport, and importantly to me, medicine. The organisation also hosts a range of artisans and activities, and an annual book fair.
When I arrived at Founders I entered via a windmill, very reminiscent of the windmill in Foxton at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom. However rather than being filled with foodstuffs that appeal to the grandchild of Dutch immigrants that I am, the windmill at Founders hosts the entry to the park, gift shop, and offices for some of the staff. The top floor of the windmill also acts as an overflow collections and storage area. Along with Moya and Hannah from Founders, I climbed to the top to look at an old anaesthetic apparatus that had recently come into the collection.
The first stop on the tour of the park once we had passed through the windmill was one of the heritage buildings on the site: the old cottage hospital. The first hospital in Nelson was a lean-to added to the side of the immigration barracks in the town and only in 1853 did construction begin on the first permanent hospital building. The cottage hospital was purchased by the Duncan family and was known as Duncan House before it made its way into the hands of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions who donated it to Founders in 1983. Inside the house are displays on different medical specialties which match an in/out board for local health practitioners who served the Nelson community in the past.
As it often goes, we see our GP before heading to the pharmacy so after the cottage hospital we made our way to the apothecary. Hundreds of bottles of old medicines and remedies are displayed in the apothecary. Many recognisable brands were featured, including Throaties and Vicks Vaporub. Other less recognisable tinctures can also be found in the display. Simpson’s Influenza Mixture was one that I had not come across before on my visits to museums. This mixture was manufactured by O. W. J. Simpson Ltd. in Wellington and according to the label was ‘the result of careful investigation’. However not much further down the label is a rather large warning about poisoning so I am unsure how successful the mixture was in treating flu.
The last stop on our tour after a coffee at the café to heat up our hands in the cold Nelson weather was to see the vast collections in storage. Founders is currently going through a reorganisation project that they’re calling ReOrg for short. The size of the project is daunting and with less than three full-time curatorial/collections staff they have achieved a great deal but have much work ahead of them. The hundreds of collection items on display are not even a drop in the bucket to the size of the collection. I’m told that in the future there will be a call out to the community for assistance and I hope the community rise to the occasion. Founders Heritage Park is a great place with facilities that service a range of community groups and interests. It is run by an enthusiastic team with a very big job on their hands.