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New improved Settlers Museum reopens in Dunedin

Friday 7 Dec 2012 6:01 p.m.

One of Dunedin's oldest museums is about to reopen, after a $40 million redevelopment.

The Settlers Museum has always looked back at the city's early arrivals, but now it's gone digital as it aims to target a new, younger audience.

The expansion project has taken four years and features 18 new exhibits.

“A lot of the exhibits in the case won't have labels, they'll have digi-screens,” says Linda Wigley. “We've made a lot more use of film, soundscapes, that kind of thing - so it's a very lively place.”

Dunedin was a former hub of broadcasting, and the "On Air" section unearths items from iconic shows like Play School, including Little Ted and his missing head.

There’s also a celebration of "the Dunedin sound", highlighting the importance of the city's music scene.

“There are certainly people who come to Dunedin because of the music, you know, German tourists, Americans and so on. So it's become a real part of the fabric of the city,” says The Chills singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps.

There's even a new gallery dedicated to the history of computers and technology.

Visitors can walk through a 19th century settler's cottage - a previous replica was off-limits behind glass – as well as jump onboard what was the first electric tram in the Southern Hemisphere.

But there's still a big focus on the early settlers, with Dunedin being New Zealand's largest city until around 1900.

“Really the infrastructure was built on gold, on the proceeds of the gold found out in Central Otago. So we're not telling the story of the goldfields, we're telling the story of the impact of gold on the city,” says Ms Wigley.

The modernised Settlers Museum opens to the public this weekend.

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