Pulling together the Antrim House Open Day

When Wellington celebrated Wellington Heritage Week from 26 October to 1 November, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Master of Museum and Heritage Practice (MMHP) students were there to help plan and run some of the Week’s events.

As part of their degree, students take on an applied project in the Museum and Heritage sector. The students work in groups to prepare a business plan for a heritage event, then implement this in collaboration with the host organisation. This year the projects were all focused on contributing to Wellington Heritage Week.

Students Rebecca Chrystal, Ayden Dove, Tia Nepia Su’a, and Henry Belchambers were tasked with developing the Antrim House Open Day.

Rebecca, Tia, Henry, and Ayden on the open day (Taken by Heritage NZ)
Rebecca, Tia, Henry, and Ayden on the open day (Taken by Heritage NZ)

Antrim House, which was built in 1905, has a long history and there were many possibilities for the students to choose to focus on. The eras of the house can be split up into the ‘Hs’: Hannah (the original owner), hotel, hostel, and heritage.

The students were keen to explore a period of the house that was less documented—its years as a hostel for young men working in the public service.

“We wanted to be able to record any information the old boys could give us and their memories of living in the house during the hostel period before they were lost to history,” explains Rebecca.

It wasn’t a simple task. “We were only given one name, the head of the Old Boys Association Mike Jarman. It took a lot of determined hunting, calling through the phonebook—and calling Mike’s old neighbours—for me to find him,” says Rebecca.Rebecca and Mike (Taken by student Henry Belchambers)

Text Box: Rebecca and Mike (Taken by student Henry Belchambers)

Upon contact, Mike was more than happy to travel to Wellington and be interviewed. He also brought his friends Rex and Ted, whom he met at Atrium House in the 1950s.

They told the students of the lifelong friendships they made and their careers in the public service. They shared tips on how to cheat at cards and where the best place was to get a non-hostel meal in the 1950s. These interviews became the basis for the open day tours the students held.

“The information and memories they provided was invaluable. It built on current knowledge, and in some cases flipped it upside down,” Rebecca says.

“First-hand accounts are so effective. They provide you with stories that give places we explore a more human element.”

Rebecca also made a video of the meeting with the old boys for the Open Day:

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