Port-able: A history of shipping in South Taranaki

Port-able: A history of shipping in South Taranaki

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Port-able: a history of shipping in South Taranaki at Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki in Patea is a new exhibition discovering the maritime activities of two once bustling ports - Opunake and Patea.  Although both located in South Taranaki, these two ports have very different histories and are good examples of the range of activities on the West Coast of the North Island in the last 150 years.

Looking at photographs from the early days of shipping in South Taranaki evokes images of a quieter life, when travelling by ship was a slow and often seemingly-romantic adventure, as people tried to forge a new life in a strange land.  In reality travelling by ship was a dangerous business.  In the early days the ports were ill-equipped to receive passengers and cargo which made them dangerous and unforgiving places.  However many men and women created great working lives for themselves and helped shape the districts, communities and prosperity we all enjoy today.

For this exhibition the port-themed dioramas, some originally created by Tawhiti Museum’s Nigel Ogle, have been restored to their former glory by Hawera craftsman Joe Bray.  The exhibition includes extensive photography, ephemera and audio/visual material from the Livingston Baker Archive, Puke Ariki Heritage Collections, and the Alexander Turnbull Library Collections.   Also included is a harbormaster’s watchtower with a life-size model of Captain W. E. Barnes, who was appointed Harbormaster in Patea in 1930.  Information on the numerous shipwrecks off the Patea and Opunake coastlines is also included.   

This exhibition has been generously funded by the Taranaki Regional Council with support from Puke Ariki Museum, Libraries & Information Centre.  The exhibition season is July 2014 – February 2015.  This exhibition is free entry however Koha is always appreciated.