Papakura Museum - go and visit, Auckland!
A hidden gem on Great South Road, Papakura Museum is modern and spacious. It hosts both long-term and temporary exhibitions so there is always something new to see, and is a hub for local research.
As you enter the museum, the wall to the right features a large aerial photograph of Papakura in 1945. Because she knew I was there to look at medical and health histories, researcher Kara Oosterman pointed out the local doctor’s house located almost centrally in the photo. She said that often locals visiting the museum recognise the house – pointing it out to staff is so popular that it is one of three buildings the museum suggest you try and find in a game of ‘Who, What, Where’ with the photo. The aerial photo is part of The Story of Papakura, one of two exhibitions in the first gallery.
The Story of Papakura features local medical and health histories woven into the exhibition. Some of the museum’s medical collection is on display including kidney dishes, syringes, and a circa-1920s electrocardiograph belonging to local doctor L.G. Young. A photograph of Hobson’s Chemist on the corner of Great South Road and Broadway highlights the history of the building and its contribution to the community. The building dates back to the late 1800s, when it was a general store owned by Mr Falwall, who was the ‘local pharmacist, sometime doctor and school teacher’. After Falwall’s death in the 1920s it was bought by George Hobson, who established the chemist. For approximately 70 years – until 1998 – the building retained Hobson’s name.
In the back of the museum is the Military Gallery, which features the contribution Papakura and surrounding areas have had to the military history of Aotearoa New Zealand in both local and global conflict. Often in military exhibitions there is an underlying theme of medical and health histories, and this exhibition is no different. The tent used by children and education groups is branded with the Red Cross. There are overt medical supplies like bandages, and a display with mannequins in need of and providing medical care. There are more covert indications to the state of public health with the tobacco tins issued to soldiers in the First and Second World Wars, and the remnants of tobacco pipes from the New Zealand Wars.
Kara took me into the collections store and we spent sometime pulling things out to have a look at the breadth of the medical collection. We came across a great old machine which was produced in America, appeared to do nothing medically beneficial, and was eventually banned in the very country that invented it. Museum curator Alan Knowles told me of the WWI nurse uniforms they have, and their rarity in museum collections. One is on display in the Military Gallery and it is a delight to see another red tippet (short cape) – the first I have seen since my visit to the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa earlier in the year.
Papakura Museum is more than worth a visit. The staff are incredibly friendly, the facility is inviting, and it is accessibly located on Great South Road. The temporary exhibition space is a real draw and at the moment has a Matariki exhibition so popular with the local community they have extended the exhibition’s display time. The museum is only half an hour from the airport so if, like me, you have a long wait time between flights, head to the museum! It made my day of travel so much better and I look forward to my next visit.