The Raglan Museum first opened to the public in 1970, but its roots go back much further. In the 1950s, local farmer Harvey Wright had a private museum at his Wrights Road home. Raglan artist Jenny Rhodes recalls looking over his collection when she visited the Wright home as a young girl. Later Harvey’s son, Whit Wright, one of the Raglan Museum’s early members, donated many of these items to the museum.
In 1957, Mr WF Wallis, a grandson of the missionary James Wallis, presented the taiaha of Wiremu Neera Te Awaitaia to the Old Settlers Association. WF Wallis remembered this historic weapon hanging on the wall of his family’s Okete homestead when he was a boy. The taiaha was later presented to the Raglan Museum acting as the kaitiaki or guardian for the people of Raglan.
Around this time an early photograph of James Wallis was given to the Raglan County Council and hung in the Raglan Council chambers, before being donated to the new museum.
The Raglan Museum Society was established in 1966, following a suggestion made at a meeting of the Raglan Old Settlers Association. The original museum committee were Raglan community leaders, keen to see the history of the town and area kept alive for future generations.
The first committee chair was Harold Orr, also a member of the Raglan Town Council, and local postmaster Bert Rhodes was secretary and treasurer. They were joined by 12 Raglan women and men on the committee.
In 1967 the museum acquired its first item – an antique Waterbury wooden kitchen clock, donated by Coralie Gibbison of Raglan. The museum continued to increase its collection, and in 1970 the museum opened in its first location – a small room in the Raglan Town Hall.
By the early ’80s, the museum was fast outgrowing this location, finally moving to the old fire station building in Wainui Road in 1982. The museum stayed at this location for 18 years.
In late 2010, the old building was demolished to make way for a new museum building, especially designed for the museum’s needs. Construction began in 2010, with the building completed in August 2011. The museum reopened to the Raglan Whaingaroa community on 12 November 2011.
Today the Raglan & District Museum is well established in its new building. With the i-Site information centre at the museum’s entrance, the museum is now open seven days a week, offering visitors a unique journey into Raglan’s history and culture.