Old school ties

Most schools have a li­brary, many have a swim­ming pool, some even have bike tracks ... but how many schools have their own mu­seum? Wan­ganui Col­le­giate School has had one since the 1960s, and JESSE KING delved into its re­mark­able past.

Whanganui Chronicle - - Front Page - Jesse King is the Chron­i­cle ed­u­ca­tion re­porter. Ph 027 6219082. [email protected]­ganuichron­i­cle.co.nz

Fol­low­ing Wan­ganui Col­le­giate School’s 150th an­niver­sary in 2004, the school mu­seum un­der­went re­de­vel­op­ment to be­come one of Col­le­giate’s most im­pres­sive fea­tures.

Al­most ev­ery­thing you can think of is in there, in­clud­ing a copy of ev­ery one of the school’s mag­a­zines pub­lished, old uni­forms, pic­tures, medals, tro­phies and much more.

Richard Bourne is the pres­i­dent of the WCS Mu­seum Trust, which was founded shortly af­ter the an­niver­sary.

One of his favourite items in the build­ing on Col­le­giate’s Liver­pool St premises is a pewter tankard dis­played on the ground floor.

It was sent to New Zealand by an English­man in 2004 whose name was not fa­mil­iar to Bourne, and he made it his mis­sion to find out the story be­hind the tankard.

Bourne dis­cov­ered that the man had been a stage­hand at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Lon­don in the 50s.

“On this oc­ca­sion, it was the first time the Ham­burg Opera Com­pany had come over and they brought their own stage­hands with them,” Bourne said.

“He saw a Ger­man drink­ing out of this tankard, he asked him why he had it and took it from him. There was still a bit of feel­ing af­ter the Sec­ond World War.”

The man knew the tankard was from New Zealand be­cause he recog­nised the word Wan­ganui en­graved on it from his time spent in the coun­try build­ing boats.

Bourne then tracked down the in­tended re­cip­i­ent of the tankard.

“I man­aged to get hold of the guy Ran­dal Ket­tle who was an old boy. He was still alive and he was ab­so­lutely amazed,” Bourne said.

“He left school in 1942 to go over­seas with the navy. His fam­ily sent him a pack­age of things back to Eng­land with friends who lived in the Chan­nel Is­lands.

“He never got them.”

The idea for a school mu­seum came from Peter McKay who was teach­ing at Col­le­giate while Bourne was at­tend­ing there in the 60s.

McKay was con­cerned that the his­tory of the school was be­ing ne­glected. He was given a room in one of the class­room blocks and be­gan col­lect­ing items of in­ter­est.

“The school built a new mu­sic suite in the early 90s so this space be­came avail­able. It ba­si­cally be­came a dump­ing ground,” Bourne said.

“I was pres­i­dent of the old boys lead­ing up to the school’s 150th an­niver­sary in 2004 and a group of us de­cided to make the mu­seum the old boys’ pro­ject for that.”

So be­gan a long process of digi­tis­ing, cat­a­logu­ing and dis­play­ing that is on­go­ing to­day.

Thou­sands of pho­to­graphs have been sorted, scanned and added to a com­puter data­base so they now ex­ist in a phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal for­mat.

A big fac­tor in putting ev­ery­thing to­gether is Frances Gibbons.

“Frances was li­brar­ian here from 1989 un­til 2009. She’d been run­ning the school web­site in those days and had been very help­ful to the mu­seum,” Bourne said.

“When she re­tired, I thought: ‘Here’s some­body who could help us.’ It took some time to con­vince her, but now she’s in­volved and has done an amaz­ing job.”

Thanks to Gibbons’ ef­forts, vis­i­tors can now get the in­for­ma­tion they re­quire with­out hav­ing to han­dle frag­ile his­tor­i­cal items.

Typ­ing the name of a for­mer or cur­rent stu­dent into the Mi­crosoft Ac­cess reg­is­ter data­base dis­plays in­for­ma­tion about them from the mu­seum on-screen.

Such in­for­ma­tion might in­clude the sports teams rep­re­sented, ti­tles held, pic­tures taken and any in­for­ma­tion on their later ca­reers.

One of her favourite dis­plays is a minia­ture replica of a Su­per­ma­rine Spit­fire aero­plane.

“We were able to help some peo­ple in North­ern Ire­land lo­cate and iden­tify some graves in the church­yard near where they live,” Gibbons said.

“They were try­ing to find out who this young man J S Hornby was be­cause they were air force

The school built a new mu­sic suite in the early 90s so this space be­came avail­able. It ba­si­cally be­came a dump­ing ground

his­to­ri­ans.” Hornby was train­ing to fly in North­ern Ire­land near the end of the war when he crashed and died the day af­ter his 21st birth­day.

Bourne was able to pro­vide a photo and obit­u­ary to the his­to­ri­ans who were ec­static and sent the replica plane in re­turn.

Gibbons has been cat­a­logu­ing at the mu­seum since 2011 and with most of the work done as a vol­un­teer.

She said the cat­a­logu­ing was fairly con­cen­trated work, so would spend two hours on it at a time.

Gibbons took up Bourne’s of­fer to help at the mu­seum be­cause she finds the his­tory in­ter­est­ing and it brings her a lot of joy, par­tic­u­larly when peo­ple re­turn.

“There was an old chap that came here in Jan­uary.

“He said: ‘I haven’t been in this build­ing since I was 16’ and he was walk­ing up the stairs to the old mu­sic room,” Gibbons said.

“He was 86. It had been 70 years since he walked up those steps. That’s the sort of real buzz you get from peo­ple com­ing in.”

Al­most 2000 old boys en­joyed rem­i­nisc­ing at the 150th an­niver­sary and it was so suc­cess­ful that the eight­per­son mu­seum trust was formed.

A self-funded char­i­ta­ble trust, the mu­seum largely gets by on gen­er­ous do­na­tions from old boys, their fam­i­lies and other trusts.

One do­na­tion that Bourne is par­tic­u­larly fond of came from old boy Howard Jones.

“He was a re­tired army colonel who came back to Whanganui in ‘93 and his hobby was pho­tog­ra­phy,” Bourne said.

“He used to go to ev­ery­thing around school and he would take pho­tos of what was go­ing on. He’d doc­u­ment them and when he got quite old, he rang me up one day.

“He said: ‘Richard, I’d like to give my pho­to­graph col­lec­tion to the mu­seum’ so I said: ‘That sounds great Howard, I’ll come and see you’ be­cause I knew I’d need a bit of space.

“We needed 10m of shelv­ing. There were 27,000 pho­tos, which is in­cred­i­ble.”

Above the rooms stor­ing pho­tos, uni­forms, mag­a­zines and year­books is the old mu­sic room which used to host choirs and band prac­tice.

It is now a dis­play room pre­sent­ing items such as the school’s first com­puter, an Im­pe­rial 66 typewriter, leather suit­cases, a tin tuck­box and a model ship.

The items have not stopped trick­ling in and the mu­seum re­ceives any­where from one to three do­nated items a week.

Bourne is re­tir­ing from his role as sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager at

Roger Dickie New Zealand Ltd next year which will free him up to do more work at the mu­seum.

Be­fore tak­ing up that role, he ran sports and sad­dlery busi­ness Bourne’s Sport­sworld for 28 years.

“Be­ing an old re­tailer, I’ve al­ways en­joyed deal­ing with the pub­lic. Meet­ing the peo­ple through the mu­seum, par­tic­u­larly what I call se­nior old boys, means a lot to me,” he said.

“How­ever, we don’t want the his­tory locked away in here, we want to get it back out into the school.

That’s our main fo­cus over the next few months.”

The new ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing and the newly strength­ened H G Carver Me­mo­rial Li­brary will open early in 2019 and it is in­tended to set up dis­plays in each.

Peo­ple can look through the mu­seum on open days and on all ma­jor Col­le­giate event days. It will also open for groups with a pre­ar­ranged book­ing.

One vis­i­tor was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from The Mu­seum of New Zealand Te Papa Ton­garewa in Welling­ton, who wrote a pos­i­tive re­view of her ex­pe­ri­ence in a news­let­ter.

News of the im­pres­sive setup has trav­elled all around New Zealand and teach­ers from as far away as Auck­land have vis­ited it with thoughts of start­ing their own mu­se­ums.

“We’ve al­ready been con­tacted by a num­ber of schools that have heard about it and we’re very happy to share our ex­pe­ri­ence with them,” Bourne said.

“We feel proud with what we’ve achieved.”

He used to go to

ev­ery­thing around school and he would take

pho­tos of what was go­ing on. He’d doc­u­ment them and when he got quite old, he rang

me up one day.

Richard Bourne re­ceived a pewter tankard from an English­man who had seen a Ger­man drink­ing from it in Eng­land. It was sent to old boy Ran­dal Ket­tle, but he never re­ceived it.

The mu­seum has a large cat­a­logue of his­tor­i­cal pho­tos in­clud­ing this one of Wan­ganui Col­le­giate School which is dis­played on the ground floor.

Frances Gibbons has spent hours cat­a­logu­ing in­for­ma­tion on to a data­base to make it eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to vis­i­tors through a com­puter in the mu­seum.

The up­stairs room used to be the main mu­sic room, but now it dis­plays items such as old desks, tro­phies, an Im­pe­rial 66 typewriter, a model ship and more.

These fold­ers stored in­side the mu­seum are called year books and in­side them are phys­i­cal copies of in­for­ma­tion from as far back as 1940.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.