HUNDREDS of bustling pedestrians pass an unremarkable villa in the central city every day, unaware that a once-cherished curios collection is now gathering dust inside.
The vast array of antiquities housed in the old Albert Park custodial cottage was gifted to the city by philanthropist Bruce Wilkinson when he died in 1999.
Mr Wilkinson was an importer of high-end goods and sold to stores including Smith and Caughey and its Wellington equivalent, Kirkcaldie and Stains.
He amassed the collection of eclectic treasures during overseas travels between the 1930s and 1960.
It includes glassware, furniture, clocks, toys and porcelain ornaments.
Mr Wilkinson generously bequeathed the collection to the former Auckland City Council, now Auckland Council.
It was one of three personal fortunes he left to the city.
A sign outside the locked villa says the Bruce Wilkinson Collection can be viewed ‘‘by appointment’’. But a person who knew of Mr Wilkinson is now calling for the public to freely enjoy the collection.
‘‘Bruce donated his house to the council and his toy collection to the ratepayers and children of Auckland city in his will,’’ Greg Gray says.
‘‘I’m sure he didn’t intend for it to be stored away.’’
Mr Gray recalls the cottage being filled with the imported clocks, china figurines, and large, elaborate wooden doll-houses that Mr Wilkinson collected.
‘‘What I’m concerned about is why is this collection being shoved away?’’ he says,
‘‘Has the council forgotten about it, and is it being looked after?’’
Auckland Council manager of regional operations John O’Brien says the museum is consistent with the requirements of the bequest.
‘‘For the first couple of years there was funding from the bequest to have a staff member there fulltime . . . but the funding ran out and that’s when the council decided to make viewing by appointment,’’ Mr O’Brien says.
‘‘The collection can be viewed on request at the moment, but we will keep this under review depending on the public interest shown.’’
He estimates about eight people have requested to see the collection in the past five years.
The council has not had the collection formally valued but it is in a good condition given its age.
Unitec design lecturer Janine Randerson remembers stumbling across the collection in 1999 when the museum was open each day.
‘‘It was sort of overwhelming, like an exuberant Victorian display where everything’s lined up and competing for attention,’’ Ms Randerson says.
Mr Gray believes the collection should be easily accessible so future generations can enjoy the unique slice of history.
The council says it offered the collection to both Motat and Auckland War Memorial Museum several years ago.
Auckland musuem director of collections David Reeves says staff have no memory of a formal offer but adds that limited space would have been a factor. ‘‘I would imagine the museum would have declined it based on the composition of the collection we already own,’’ Mr Reeves says.
Motat marketing manager Deanna Wharton says part of the collection it received many years ago is in secure off-site storage.
‘‘We are currently working through a very large-scale project of cataloguing, creating and updating an inventory of all items.
‘‘Once this has been completed we will be in a much better position to interpret this particular collection and determine how it fits within the Motat collection and any potential exhibition.’’