Once the Tawhiti Cheese Factory, this building now houses a private museum which tells the story of Taranaki history using both life sized and scale models. The figures are created from moulds cast from real people, friends, relatives and neighbours of Nigel Ogle, designed and cast in the “body shop”. A former art teacher, Nigel enjoys developing new displays for the museum. There is even a display of Nigel himself at work in the “body shop”.
The Musket Wars raged between the Maori tribes throughout Taranaki between 1820-30. The lethal effects of muskets on opponents who lacked them upset the balance of pre-European tribal life. This was followed by the 1860 land Wars which saw the encroachment of European settlers into tribal lands. British soldiers arrived to keep the peace. Then the Forest Rangers were set up, locals trained to fight in the tough bush conditions, which were unfamiliar to the British soldiers. As we walked around admiring both the life sized displays and the tiny figurines in show cases, realistic sound effects floated around us.
There are displays on early endeavours such as logging the native bush, and breaking in the bush for farming. The back breaking labours of making a living in colonial times are shown, featuring farm equipment of the times. Displays also showed sheep shearing, brick making, and coal mining. Around every corner was yet another lifelike diorama.
There is even a surprise in store for the unwary public. I watched in anticipation as Elaine opened the door on a “shed”, in reality it was an outhouse. She was certainly surprised, and more than a little embarrassed. (I already knew what she would find behind that door, so just happened to have my camera ready!) There he was, reading the newspaper as he went about his business .
So sorry to interrupt
The Farm Power Hall houses a huge collection of tractors, mowers, a steam powered roller and tractor, military vehicles and a host of smaller appliances such as chainsaws and mowers. This display kept Robin’s interest for ages.
Our visit concluded with a visit to Mr Badger’s cafe for a late lunch. Named after the character from “Wind in the Willows”, Mr Badger was reading a book nice and cosy by the cafe fireplace. A series of scale models illustrate scenes from the book, and various editions of “Wind in the Willows” were arranged along a shelf. There was another surprise in the cafe. Seated at one of the tables was yet another wonderful life sized model, gazing out the cafe window at the passers-by.
Our visit to Nigel Ogle’s Tawhiti Museum was a “must see” on our trip, and we were not disappointed. Each of the faces of the life sized models is completely individual, and the expressions range from worry, fear, anger, sorrow, thoughtfulness and delight. We can certainly recommend a visit here to anyone passing through this part of the country.