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Cambridge Museum’s displays and events share histories from Waipā told from a local and regional perspective. It is managed by the Cambridge Historical Society, with support from the community and the Waipā District Council.
Our mission is to awaken curiosity about the Cambridge area’s people and places through exhibitions and events and to respond to the interests of our community.
Our primary activities include:
- Delivering exhibitions and engaging experiences for all ages and audiences, responding to interests in our community.
- Providing care and access to items in the collection
- Enabling research and scholarship about the Cambridge area
Our vision is to make Cambridge in Waipā a better place to live and to visit by contributing to the development of a positive community identity, advancing community well-being, and contributing to a sustainable local economy. Our activities extend beyond the walls of the museum across the Cambridge area.
We aim to become an integral part of the community by building strong and enduring relationships with community groups and supporting and collaborating with each other in the pursuit of shared aims.
The Historical Society (CHS)
The Cambridge Historical Society (Incorporated) was established on 29 October 1956 by a group of local historically-minded residents to collect and preserve Cambridge’s history. The Cambridge Borough Mayor Doctor H. C. Tod chaired the public meeting attended by about forty people. Dr Tod referred to the fact that the Waikato was steeped in history and with the “formation of a Historical Society many interesting facts were certain to be revealed and recorded”. The group was formally registered as an Incorporated Society on 19 November 1959.
The notion of a museum for Cambridge was first recorded in the Waikato Times in 1880 when Mr R Kirkwood presented a piece of the cook strait telegraph cable to the Cambridge Public Library as “the first contribution towards a museum”. The library and reading room then occupied the cottage adjacent to the Port Office. Fundraising efforts in July 1888 raised almost £20 at a local concert for the Cambridge Museum. (Calculated today as $3,495). The Cambridge Public Library Corporation’s AGM of 25 January 1898 reported that since their last AGM “the nucleus of a local museum had been established”. The glass showcases had been completed and placed in position. Later that year, Mrs J Robertson presented to the museum a rare copy of the Times newspaper containing the first news of the Battle of Waterloo and a rare print of the Queen and Prince Consort, “glazed and framed”.
In the 1901 obituary of Miss Elizabeth Hooper, it was said the Cambridge Museum owed its existence to her generous donation of Indian and Chinese curios. When the town library, then known as the Carnegie Library and attached to the town hall, was opened in 1902, the local newspaper reported that the museum glass showcases had been shifted over from the old library.
After the formation of the CHS in 1956, Charles B Ferguson was elected convenor of the museum. One year later a museum was opened in the front room of the Shakespeare Street home of President Roland “Poley” Hill. The museum collection remained in Poley’s home for 10 years.
In 1967 the collection moved to the old power substation on the corner of Shakespeare and Browning streets. The old substation owned by the Cambridge Borough Council was provided rent-free. It was opened at weekends by volunteers and for school visits during the week. The building was damp and draughty and not fully suitable for archive and collection storage.
Eleven years later in 1978, The Cambridge Community Arts Centre was formed. The main museum collection moved to the Cambridge Town Hall taking over the old council rooms, (today known as the “Victoria Room”) sharing the space with the Arts Society and the Information Centre. Moira Penman, the librarian at the Council’s Carnegie Library and known locally as the “Information Lady” also looked after the museum during the week; during the weekends the role was taken up by Society volunteers.
The museum remained at the Town Hall until 1983 when it was moved to the “old courthouse” which had been recently purchased by the Cambridge Borough Council from the Justice Department after the Cambridge District Court had been closed down. The building became a Community Centre shared by the Museum (main courtroom), Citizens Advice (front room), Marriage Guidance (existing tea room), and the rear storage shed by the Māori wardens, later occupied by Civil Defence. The Police cell (donated to CHS by the Police Department) was used for museum storage and display purposes.
The museum was initially open at weekends and staffed by volunteers. Special openings could be arranged during the week by prior arrangement, with Moira Penman the Council librarian.
In 1989 the Cambridge Borough Council was disestablished and merged into the Waipā District Council. In 1992 Waipa District Council granted a full-time museum curator position to Cambridge. Mrs Eris Parker took up the position. The following year CHS took over the whole courthouse after the Citizens Advice Bureau moved to new premises. The Collection was moved into the Civil Defence shed at the rear of the museum in 1995.
Historical Society Committee
Cambridge Historical Society operates the Cambridge Museum with an executive committee of four, plus up to six members, a museum manager, administrator, and collection assistant.
Executive Committee Members 2023:
President: Grant Middlemiss
Vice President: Nigel Salter
Treasurer: Jeff Nobes
Secretary: Jo Barnes
Committee Members: Amiel Bates, Paul Garland, Carol Hughes and Lyndall Hermitage