Nigel Ogle (a former art teacher) bought the old Tawhiti Dairy Factory in 1975, not realising at the time that he would end up turning it into a museum, let alone an award-winning museum.
Since 1988, the museum has been open regular hours, and he's been working on the exhibits full time.
When we visited, Nigel was working on a new room containing a diorama of a Taranaki battle, based on watercolour images created by an artist of the time (he told us the name, but alas I neglected to write it down and have since forgotten it...)
The detail was perhaps even more amazing than the scenes I'd already been admiring,and Nigel pointed out his use of forced perspective to draw your eye to the very back of the scene.
He also explained how his approach to creating the bush has changed over the years.
Earlier scenes had plants made of paper, but now he uses a combination of materials such as etched copper leaves, cheap dusters from The Warehouse (alas, I forgot to hunt any down while I was in the country),
and railway modelling material.
and Nigel demonstrated how they would be placed into the bush(another example of drawing the viewer's eye into the back of the scene).
He also pointed out the takahē down by the water: a little 'easter egg' for those with sharp eyes.
As I said before, I really loved the realism he's achieved with his representation of the New Zealand bush.
And the coast. I was particularly impressed by the way be merged the painted backdrop with the modelled parts of the diorama.And presented a new story everywhere I looked...
(while drawing the eye ever onward through the diorama).If you're ever in New Zealand, I highly recommend making the time to visit Tawhiti Museum in Hawera.
I know I have to go back for another visit as I missed a whole section, which I believe contains some more awesome 1/12-scale miniature scenes. And to think I almost missed it...
Finally, if you need to be convinced (or perhaps live too far away for an in-person visit to be realistic), you might enjoy this video: