Dunedin: Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Wandering Around

After flying from Aukland, I didn’t get to my hotel in Dunedin, New Zealand until about 3:30 this afternoon. Thus, I didn’t have much time to explore Dunedin. I only visited the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum and wandered around a bit.

(I said “Dunedin, New Zealand” above because I know of at least one other Dunedin in the world. That one’s in Florida. I’ve never been to Dunedin, Florida. For all I know, it may be exciting, fun, enlightening, and/or charming, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to fly there from Auckland, New Zealand. So, I figured the New Zealand one was my best bet.)

I’m not sure if one would call Dunedin a big town or a small city, but it probably fits somewhere in that range. I knew from the tour books I looked at before coming here that it wasn’t a major metropolis. I received confirmation of this on landing at Dunedin Airport.

The airport has only one runway. There was a herd of cows grazing not far from it. Upon reaching the end of the runway, the Airbus 320 jet I was on had to turn around and double back to get to the terminal. So, they must have to space out the landings and takeoffs quite a bit.

That’s probably not a problem now and likely won’t be unless the area the airport serves grows significantly in population or popularity. Despite planes being hard to hide, I didn’t spot any other planes on the tarmac. And I saw only two jetways hanging off the terminal. Although, there was some construction going on. They may be building more.

I arrived on a domestic flight. Inside the small terminal, there was a sign pointing to the international gates. So there might be other jetways off to the side of the terminal that I didn’t see. Either that or the alleged international gates are a charade to impress tourists, like me. A Potemkin airport, if you will. If so, well played, Dunedin. Well played.

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand

As the name suggests, the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum presents exhibits on the settlers of the Otago region of New Zealand. Otago is in the south end of the South Island of New Zealand. Dunedin is in Otago.

The exhibits span the periods from the first Kāi Tahu (a Māori tribe) settlers through to the Scottish settlers, and beyond into the 20th century. The displays explore the life and times of those settlers.

The exhibits include a variety of artifacts large and small. Among the large items are horse-drawn carriages and wagons sans horses, trams, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. There are also a couple of boats and a recreation of the below-deck births (aka bunks) of a sailing ship of the type that brought some of the early European settlers.

Non-transportation displays included clothing, household appliances, and furniture, along with a few tools, weapons, and industrial machines.

The walls of one room are almost entirely covered with portraits of Otago settlers who arrived, if memory serves, from the 1820s to the late 18-hundreds.

(Note to new readers of this journal: Whenever I say something to the effect of, “if memory serves,” you’d be wise to be highly skeptical of the “information” that follows those words. My memory rarely serves.)

The footprint of the museum is relatively small for a museum. Then again, it would be beyond enormous for, say, a walk-in closet.

The museum is much longer than it is wide. The exhibits are laid out chronologically along the length of the galleries. At the end, in the 20th-century section, there are some old computers. One in particular caught my attention.

People who know me are probably thinking it must be the sort of computer I programmed back in my much-previous life as a programmer that drew my eye. Nope. I never programmed that type of computer. Nor even close to that sort of computer.

No, that’s not the reason. Here’s the reason: According to the attached plaque, this machine “became famous as the selector of winning numbers for Bonus Bonds, a government savings scheme started in 1970.”

“Um, ok,” you’re probably thinking, “so why would Joel be interested in that?”


Well, I’ll tell you. The plaque also said that the formal name given to that type of computer was “Electronic Selection Indicator Equipment.” Or, ELSIE for short.

If you are a stranger who unexpectedly stumbled on this travel journal, that name won’t give you the slightest clue as to why it attracted my attention. However, my relatives and close friends will know exactly why it tugged at me. (For the rest of you, in the unlikely event anyone else ever does find this page, let’s just say, mum’s the word. Or, some people might spell it mom.)

Wandering Around Dunedin

Dunedin’s storybook-style train station

From the little wandering around I did today—mostly in the core of the town/city—I got a small-town vibe from Dunedin. So, in answer to my implied question above, regardless of whether it’s officially classified as a city or a town, I’m going to call it a town.

There are some buildings that, in Toronto, we’d call low-rise or, at most, mid-rise. But they are probably categorized as high-rises in towns.

The buildings offer a very eclectic mix of architectural styles, all within the span of a few blocks. If I knew the first thing about architecture I would name and describe the styles for you, but I don’t. I also don’t know the second, third, fourth, or any other thing about architecture. Sorry about that.

My architectural ignorance notwithstanding, or maybe because of my architectural ignorance, I will call the architecture of the charming train station here “storybook.” However, I don’t know if anyone else would call it that. Look at the picture at the top-right of this “Wandering Around Dunedin” section. Tell me if that describes it.

A small sample of Dunedin’s eclectic architecture

As far as I can tell from the signage in the train station, the only trains that serve the station now are old-style trains that run scenic, round-trip routes for tourists.

As charming as the train station is, many of the other buildings are attractive too in their own sorts of ways.

Instead of trying to name or describe any of the architectural styles, I’ve included pictures of a few of them in the collage to the left. Feel free to name the styles, either using the real names or ones you whimsically make up. You’re on your own with that. I’m not going to do everything for you. Nor will I restrict your creativity in naming the styles.

One More Thing

If you read yesterday’s post, you might remember the animated pedestrian walk signals I discussed. If you read yesterday’s post and don’t remember the discussion of the animated walk signals your memory is worse than mine. You might want to see a specialist about that.

The point is, they’ve got some in Dunedin too. They’ve got some animated walk signals, that is, not memory specialists. Although, they may have some of those too. Dunedin is a university town, after all. Absent-minded professors may need memory specialists. They may also need animated pedestrian signals to remind them that intersections are for crossing.

But I digress.

Here, the animated walk signals are only near the centre of town, as was the case in Auckland. The signals just a few blocks away from the centre are of the static stick-figure variety. I guess they are trying to say that downtowners are more active walkers than people in the burbs or reasonable facsimiles of burbs. They may be right about that, said the snobbish downtowner.


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