For visitors to New Zealand’s Otago region, there is no better way to learn more about the country’s history than by visiting the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. The museum has been a regular tourist attraction since it first opened its doors in 1908 and is today a testament to times long past. Indeed, it is regularly touted as New Zealand’s oldest and more extensive history museum.
The museum is currently under refurbishment, but will open its doors again in December 2012. It is expected that the new improvements will allow for an increase in exhibition space and a larger entrance. While the renovations will allow the museum to host more attractions, old exhibitions are also likely to remain. So too will the museum’s site remain Dunedin’s wonderful old New Zealand Rail Road Transport Building, kind of a museum in itself.
Inside the museum are numerous exhibits dedicated to the history of the early Otago settlers, indigenous Maori, Chinese immigrants and subsequent waves of immigrant groups to the Otago region. Visitors to the museum can stop to ponder the remarkable stories of whalers and farmers as well as look upon the original artefacts that have been both collected and donated to the museum throughout the years.
Chief among the museum’s attractions is its E-class Fairlie steam locomotive, the oldest preserved steam locomotive in New Zealand. Entitled Josephine, it is a fascinating feature for anyone interested in the history of transportation. For those more culturally inclined, the museum also has a collection of paintings by Dunedin-artists and surveyors Charles Kettle, John Buchanan, Alfred Henry O’Keeffe and George O’Brien.
A traditional Chinese garden sits right behind the museum. Said to be one of only a few such gardens outside of China, it was a gift from Dunedin’s sister city of Shanghai and a great place to rest your feet after your time spent indoors.
Lastly, the museum also offers a daily walking tour of Dunedin from 10am – 12noon. Bookings are not required.
For more information on the walking tour, or the museum, visit www.otago.settlers.museum
For those looking for other things to do in Dunedin, visit www.gorentals.co.nz/Explore-New-Zealand/Explore-New-Zealand.aspx
The GO Guy