On a recent road trip my husband, myself and our baby son stopped in Bulls for a break. This was our first time traveling with a baby. We are lucky that Finlay (mostly) doesn’t mind the car, if he’s due a nap, in which case he promptly falls asleep, however if it is not nap time then the only thing that will stop him from melting down is if I sing Incey wincey spider on repeat until nap time either rolls around again or we arrive at our destination. Anyone who has experience with babies understands that getting your baby’s naps right can make or break your sleep that night. Too many, too long, too short, too few and you are fucked. You basically become the Goldilocks of napping, always trying to get it just right. (I understand that you’re reading this like “why the hell is she going on about her baby’s sleep?” please bear with me, the thing is that as a parent you become obsessed with sleep, mostly because you aren’t getting any, it’s the same reason teenage boys in 80s films are obsessed with the female form, but trust me, I will get to the bit about the actual museum soon, I’m just trying to set the scene) Fin had been asleep for about 1.5 hours, that’s a good nap, so we decided to stop in Bulls, wake Fin up and look around while waiting for him to get sleepy again so we could travel in relative peace and quiet. This process would take at least 1.5 hours. What to do in Bulls for an hour and a half? That’s when I saw it! A sign for the Bulls museum. I had to go and have a look.
I love museums, but have a particular fondness for the old fashioned ones, new media technology is great and fun and definitely has it place, but my soul just loves the archaic. It feels slightly magical and evokes a sense of wonder. I knew I would be more likely to experience this in a small community run space as opposed to the sleekness and well funded (relatively speaking of course – all areas of the G.L.A.M industry could use more funding) echoing chambers of Te Papa. As soon as I saw the front signage I knew I was not going to be disappointed. If I could give bulls museum a color it would be the brown of a worn leather suitcase.
Upon entering we were greeted by a friendly man whose name sadly escapes me (I blame sleep deprivation). He gave us a guided tour, his knowledge of local history was profound, and the enthusiasm for it genuine. My husband is a big history nerd and delighted in this V.I.P treatment. While they talked history, I wandered. Now this might sound weird, but what I love about museums isn’t just learning, I mean sure, there is that, undoubtedly, but mostly it’s the joy I get from being around stuff. I love things, lots of little things and stuff. I like to give my own narrative to items and imagine who the person was that used them. What was their life like? What hopes and dreams did they have? Were they rich or poor? Old or young? Did they have an easy life or one beset by tragedy? I’m not one for reading wall labels, I despise large blocks of text. All I want to know is this, what is this item? How old is it? Who did it belong to? What it’s purpose? etc. Basic bare bones facts on which I can build my own daydream. Museums are often thought of as lofty places where history is stored, academic, learned, but really what a museum is, to me anyway, is a storyteller, the objects travelling through space and time to impart their tales. That’s what I love about old fashioned museums, they just require you to be a good listener.
Bulls museum is beautiful, my favorite room, a diorama of sorts, resembles a living room and it’s filled with beautiful things, past objects of everyday life that have had a mask of beauty painted on them by time. Now obsolete, removed from their original purpose, they simply sit, waiting to be admired purely for their aesthetic qualities. You can smell the nostalgia.
A big draw card for the museum is the display of Chris Amon’s racing gear. Chris was a famous Formula One driver, and was born in Bulls. According to the Bull.It.In (Issue 136, November 2016) an Amon fan hailing from Leicester, England, made a point of stopping in Bulls on his recent New Zealand holiday and he happily spent over an hour in the museum admiring the collection.
The museum is a labor of love, it is completely volunteer run, and just because it isn’t run by professionals doesn’t mean it doesn’t adhere to current museum practice. Every item has accession numbers and is cataloged. They had to carefully chose the lighting to conserve Chris Amon’s racing suit for prosperity. Members of the community who spoke a different language got together to translate the information sheet. I’m trying to remember off the top of my head but I believe you can get it in Arabic, Russian, Te Reo, Indian, Chinese (and quite a few more that at this moment I also can’t recall) This museum is truly the spirit of its community, warm, inviting and passionate. I’ve quite fallen in love with Bull’s museum. I might even say it’s Bull-tiful (get it? Ok you can groan now, but what would a post about the pun capital of NZ be without any puns of its own?)