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Prior to my election to Parliament in 2008, I was the Chief Executive of the Music and Art Waikato Trust (Arts Waikato). I enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the Chair of the Trust, Alison Gibb, who is a woman of many talents and boundless energy, and I appreciated the strong support I received from Alison and her dedicated team of trustees.

Alison is currently the President of the Friends of Waikato Museum committee, an organisation of dedicated and enthusiastic supporters of one of our region’s most important cultural attractions. Alison and her committee support an experienced and professional team of staff, who are led by a visionary Director, Cherie Meecham.  We are very fortunate to have such capable experts caring for the treasures of our region, and a visit to the Museum is always a stimulating and rewarding experience.

Unlike other main centres in New Zealand, Waikato Museum is also our region’s public art gallery and the museum’s role includes covering art, history, science and tangata whenua. The Museum’s official name is Te Whare Taonga o Waikato – The Treasure House of Waikato.

Because the Museum has such excellent staff it attracts world class exhibitions. Often Waikato Museum is the only venue in New Zealand to host such exhibitions.  Museums and art galleries need supporters.  If they are owned by local bodies, as the Waikato Museum is, there is always pressure from competing interests to attract sufficient funding to do the things the institution wants to do, and which local residents and those from elsewhere expect to experience when they visit. The Friends of Waikato Museum are an important link in meeting that expectation.

Founded in 1974, the Friends of Waikato Museum is an incorporated society and a registered charity, dedicated to encouraging interest in the visual arts, heritage and culture, to support the Waikato Museum in the implementation of its goals and programmes.  Over the years, through their donations, subscriptions and fundraising activities, the Friends have enabled the purchase of art and artefacts which form a valued part of the Museum’s permanent collections, providing a legacy for the citizens of the Waikato region.

At present the Friends have a project under way to fund a sculpture to be donated to the city and region, which will be located on the river path below the Museum.  This is part of Hamilton’s River Plan, and the sculpture will provide a marker for entry to the Museum when it is opened up to the River as part of the plan.  There will eventually be a formal entrance to the Museum on the riverbank.

It costs as little as $20 per year for a senior member to join the Friends, and there are many benefits in doing so, including friendship, fun, learning, and knowing that you are contributing to the vibrancy and cultural enrichment of the city and region. Friends also enjoy participating in a number of activities, including:

  • Trips to view collections and exhibitions outside Hamilton;
  • Special member-only previews of exhibitions;
  • Receiving newsletters providing information on exhibitions and events;
  • Annual dinners with guest speakers; and
  • Enjoying lecture series on topics related to museums and art galleries.

You may join the Friends online on the Museum’s website (www.waikatomuseum.co.nz)  via the ‘Get involved’ section, by picking up a membership form from the Museum brochure racks in the foyer, or by contacting the Secretary, Catherine Lang, at friends.secretary@gmail.com. Thank you to those who have supported the Friends over many years for your wonderful contribution to our region’s taonga, cultural heritage and attractions.

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