Monday, 10 February 2014

On the road in New Zealand: a visit to the Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame

I’m currently in New Zealand doing a road trip that sees me visiting DIY museums on the west coast of both the north and south islands. I arrived in Manaia, North Island, after a somewhat harrowing journey driving the Forgotten World Highway  – 150km stretch of tight winding road complete with fallen tree and boulder hazards, unsealed stretches, and a one lane pitch black dirt tunnel. By the time I arrived at the Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame my nerves were a little frayed!

The Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame is a country music museum and entertainment venue privately owned by Helen and Ian Braithwaite. The Braithwaite’s purchased the museum in 2002 from the founder, Pam Willing who had opened the museum in 1992. 

At the heart of the museum’s collection are over 400 photographs of country music musicians from New Zealand and abroad (mainly Australia and the USA). As the Hall’s brochure states, the museum will “bring[] you face to face with the Country Music legends of our time”. Framed photographs cover the walls. Other forms of memorabilia on display include posters, instruments, t-shirts as well as household and agricultural items not directly related to country music but which, as the brochure states, “bring back memories of the good ol’ days singing around the piano”.

As an entertainment venue, the Braithwaite’s hold music evenings every Thursday as well as a music showcase on the second Saturday of every month. They are both keen musicians and enjoy performing for visitors. After my interview I was delighted to hear them perform ‘Teen Angel’.

This is the first privately owned museum I have visited as part of this project and it is a very different beast from the other places of my research to-date which are all run collectively by a group of enthusiasts. The collection is also very different, with the display being dominated by photographs. As such it will raise some interesting questions, I’m sure; questions that will develop as I make visits to two more privately owned museums this trip. The next on my list is KD’s Elvis Presley Museum which is situated just down the coast road from the Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame in the town of Hawera.