Puke Ariki’s historical baggage packs a surprise and happy memories

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Life on the road can be tough for NPDC’s Puke Ariki volunteers – Kaddy Smale and Ady Nightingale are having trouble packing.

“We’ve forgotten the whisky bottle!” says Kaddy as Ady presses down the lid of the suitcase.

They rearrange a fox stole, an evening purse and the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows sash to squeeze in the old glass whisky flask next to a temperance pledge certificate.

They’ve been packing the same suitcase regularly since 2006, but it’s often a struggle preparing to take Puke Ariki’s Museum in a Suitcase on the road.

Kaddy, 79, and Ady, 82, are in a team of volunteers who take some the museum’s artefacts around the district to friendship clubs, church, and other community groups.

The suitcase is always accompanied by a kete (basket) and a taonga, such as a stone adze, that the audience can hold and get a feel for.

They were visiting a couple of places each week before Covid forced many rest homes and retirement villages to close their doors to visitors, but now they’re still doing about 30 a year.

The trick is choosing items that trigger memories and a lively chatter, they say, and they’re always on the lookout for something different.

Ady holds up an old Rinso box. “How many people know the connection between this and Selwyn Toogood?” she asks. (Clue: Google it.)

Kaddy is sorting through black and white pictures of Ferdy the Bull, the Queen visiting Pukekura Park in 1954 and the trams running down Devon Street.

“The photos are always popular, and they usually start a conversation, and the Janet and John school readers usually bring back memories along with the leather strap.”

“The best thing about this is the reactions of the people and the joy on their faces,” says Ady.

NPDC Group Manager Community and Customer Services Teresa Turner said the Museum in a Suitcase volunteers were delivering the Puke Ariki experience to elderly and other groups who might find it difficult to come to the museum.

“Our awesome volunteers do a fantastic job in helping to keep Puke Ariki Library and Museum running from organising book deliveries to housebound readers, to organising historic walks and sharing our unique Taranaki heritage with our residents.  

“Volunteers also help us deliver great exhibitions and events at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the TSB Showplace. They’re a vital cog in keeping the wheels of our Sustainable Lifestyle Capital turning,” said Ms Turner.

To arrange a visit by Museum in a Suitcase, which will be back from early 2023, use the contact us section at pukeariki.com or phone 06-759 6060. To volunteer call the same number or go to our website to npdc.govt.nz/volunteering


Puke Ariki Fast Facts: 

  • Puke Ariki first opened in 2003 and is the world’s first purpose-built, fully integrated museum, library, and visitor information centre. 
  • Puke Ariki has access to hundreds of thousands of free digital resources through their online platforms for e-books, e-audiobooks, e-journals and e-magazine, online newspapers, streaming films and documentaries, resources in different languages, encyclopaedias, and ancestry.
  • There are currently 28,404 active library card users. 


Caption: Kaddy Smale and Ady Nightingale get ready to hit the road with Museum in a Suitcase.