NOTE: As of November 2016 the Rotorua Museum has closed for earthquake strengthening.
Rotorua Museum is a local history museum and art gallery located in Government Gardens in Rotorua.
The museum is housed in the historic Bath House building. The Bath House opened it 1908 offering therapeutic geothermal spa treatments. It closed in 1966 and the museum opened in the south wing in 1969. Later in 1977 the art gallery opened in the north wing.
The museum is open from 9am daily (except Christmas Day). March to November the museum closes at 5pm and December to February it closes at 6pm. Entry is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $8 for children (5-15 years). Admission is free to Rotorua residents with relevant ID.
Museum staff also offer one hour guided tours, which is included in the admission price.
A good place to start is the cinema. Rotorua Stories, is a short film presented by actor and former Rotorua resident Temuera Morrison, which explores Rotorua’s volcanic landscape, the Pink and White Terraces, the Mount Tarawera eruption and history of the Bath House. The film runs every 20 minutes and although the special effects are now dated it is still very informative and entertaining.
Taking the Cure: The story behind the Bath House building is a permanent exhibition, which outlines the history and purpose of the Bath House. Visitors can view the remains of the baths, pools, and cooling rooms.
The mud bath basement is located under the building and is accessed through a basement walkway. Hard hats are provided as the ceilings are low. There are four remaining mud baths pretty much as they were when the building first opened.
In the attic visitors can see the lighting and ventilation operations used in the Bath House. From the attic there are stairs to a rooftop platform offering views of Government Gardens, Lake Rotorua and Sulphur Bay. It was closed when I visited due to weather conditions.
Ngā Pūmanawa o Te Arawa – The Beating Hearts of Te Arawa is the other main permanent exhibition, which explores the Te Arawa people’s journey from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. There is also exhibits on the Pink and White Terraces and the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and the aftermath. No photography is permitted in this gallery.
There is also a short documentary B Company Remembers with WWII veterans from the B Company 28 Māori Battalion and their families. It plays every half from 9.30am.
On the ground floor on the north wing is the Rotorua Trust Galleries, which features changing exhibitions. When I visited there was an exhibition Corrugations: The Art of Jeff Thomson, a sculptor best known for his work with corrugated iron. Thomson created the famous corrugated iron gumboot sculpture in Taihape.
There was also an exhibition Whiria: Weaving Global Connections, which explores indigenous weaving in New Zealand and internationally.
Upstairs on the level 1 there are two more art galleries, the Southern Trust Gallery and Chamber of Commerce Gallery. Both these galleries have changing exhibitions.
Also on the upstairs level is an exhibition on Tudor Towers, detailing the space’s transition from a restaurant to a cabaret venue and to a night club from 1965 to 1990.
Oruawhata Drive, Government Gardens, Rotorua