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Ōpōtiki Museum (is actually two museums!)

Ōpōtiki Museum Te Whare Taonga o te Moana a Toi has a very misleading façade; the front of the museum implies that it's small. In reality, the museum is three storeys tall and runs down the length of shops on the block and encompasses ‘the new museum’ and the ‘Shalfoon & Francis Museum’. The museum is open every day except Sunday, and the Shalfoon & Francis Museum is open by request.

Authored by Our Health Journeys Curator Caitlin Timmer-Arends

Stock from the general store that is now the Shalfoon & Francis Museum. Image used with permission.

When I arrived at the museum I met with Lorna, a lovely, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable volunteer and member of the museum’s board. She took me along the street up to the Op Shop and behind the curtains into the Shalfoon & Francis Museum.

The Shalfoon & Francis Museum is the former grocery and hardware store which opened in the late 1800s and closed in 2000. The Op Shop is one of the main funding sources for the museum in addition to the admission charge.

A small number of the bottles in the museum's collection. Image used with permission.

The shop windows contain displays and give a glimpse into the sheer quantity of collections looked after by Ōpōtiki Museum. Currently, and very timely for me, the windows are displaying some of dentistry and orthopaedic medicine collections.

On a set of shelves at the back of the museum is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing display of old pharmacy bottles and jars I have ever seen. They were lined up and variegated by colour on shelving at least two metres tall.

The medical collections displayed in the 'new' museum. Image used with permission.

In the ‘new museum’ my first port of call, of course, was the hospital display. A sign from the old Ōpōtiki Hospital overlooks the display set up to replicate a room from the now closed hospital.

In the display was an old x-ray machine with the instructions for use typewritten and taped to the front of the machine. The paper is yellowing, and the tape is losing its adhesion but luckily remains. For how else would I know how many milliamperes and kilovolts I need for a five-minute fluoroscopy? (It’s 5 and 85 respectively, by the way).