For­got­ten trea­sures

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIELLE STREET and CIARA PRATT

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.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.