Case closed on mystery museum box
How did a box of old photographs that once belonged to a wellknown farming family in Marlborough end up in Morrinsville?
That’s what the team at the Marlborough Museum have been wondering.
The box mysteriously showed up on the doorstep of the Morrinsville Museum in May. No-one knows who left it there. After a flick through the photos, staff at the museum soon realised they had a connection to Marlborough’s past, and sent them down for staff here to solve the mystery.
Marlborough Museum archives manager Megan Ross said the box of historical goodies belonged to the Cummings family, who owned Stronsay Station in the Awatere Valley.
‘‘The box was dumped on the doorstep of the Morrinsville Museum,’’ Ross said.
‘‘They walked into work one day and knew nothing about it or where it came from. It was a bit of mystery. When they looked into it, it turns out it was a part of Marlborough history.’’
The Marlborough Museum already has a number of items in its collection relating to the Stronsay farm, including an old yellow Oliver Cletrac crawler tractor from about 1953.
But the Cummings were out there much before that.
JW Cummings bought nearly 2000 hectares in 1908 and eventually split the land between his sons Sinclair and Davy in 1938.
The photos in the box ranged in date, but most were connected to the period when Sinclair and his wife Dorothy Cummings had the farm.
But how did they get to Morrinsville?
Well, the amateur sleuths at the Marlborough Museum have cracked the case, spotting the name Robert Craven on some of the items.
Luckily, one of the researchers at the museum is a Craven.
‘‘One of our researchers is a chap named Ray Craven, so I got in touch with him,’’ Ross said.
‘‘It just so happens that this Robert Craven from the photographs was a cousin of his and he was born and raised in Marlborough.’’
Ross and her team discovered Robert Craven’s mother and Dorothy Cummings were sisters.
Robert Craven spent a lot of time on the farm while growing up in Marlborough.
‘‘Robert went to school here,’’ Ross said.
‘‘And did well enough to go onto university to become a lawyer.’’
After that, he moved to Morrinsville and set up a successful legal practice.
‘‘The Cummings had no children of their own, so he probably inherited these photographs and took them to Morrinsville.’’
Robert Craven died in September last year.
‘‘He had no other living relatives in the area, so whoever cleaned up his estate must have found this, and thought it belonged Museum.’’
Ross said the current owners of Stronsay Station and living members of the Cummings family had been visiting the museum to look at the newly-found photographs, and to help name some of those pictured.
‘‘It’s been great to have people from the family come by and help give names to the faces.
‘‘It just amazes them that this collection relates to their family, their station, and their farm.
‘‘And now it has come back home.’’ with Morrinsville
Old photos of the Cummings family on Stronsay farm in the Awatere Valley. Back where they belong.
A postcard album and an early coloured photograph found in the collection.