Last week, Cricket Museum staff went to collect a large amount of cricket books that someone had left us in their will. The gentleman’s widow had carefully put the books into boxes and they sat there waiting for us to take them back to the Museum. He had died recently and his wife was obviously keen to honour his wishes in making sure the books went where he wanted them to go.
It was a poignant visit but a somewhat strange situation to be in. We could thank her for setting up the visit but couldn’t thank the person who had left us such wonderful material – however much we wanted to. When we left, we realised that we were taking something of her husband with us – something that had help make him the man he was, the person she loved. It was an honour, but it also was a responsibility.
I felt that responsibility more and more as we began to sort out the books, ordering them into a collection that will forever bear the donor’s name. As I skimmed over each book, cleaned the odd cover or searched for more information, it struck me how these books would always be part of the memory that this lady would have of her husband. It also, again, made me aware of how museums like ours deal all the time with memories.
Firstly, there is the memory on the part of the donor. The memory of the daughter who presents her mum’s cricket blazer or the son who gives a collection of scorecards that his dad had kept. Both giving a small part of someone they loved to us to keep and treasure. Sometimes it’s a cricketer giving us a bat, a ball, a collection of ephemera from when they were younger and played the game. It’s a way of helping keeping someone’s memory, or memories, alive.
Secondly, there’s the memories that such donations trigger in people who see them amongst all the exhibits on show in this wonderful place. They remember a certain game, they remember who they were with (whether it was two years or fifty years ago) when they watched it or heard the commentary on the radio. The marvelous thing about these memories is that each person’s memory of a game, a player, or an event, can be completely different from anybody else’s.
“a wonderful striped affair and I think it had tassles, I really do.”
– A visitor remembers Martin Donnelly’s Cap
Sometimes people will chat to us about their memories. There was the old gentleman touring New Zealand (“My Farewell Tour” he called it) who was old enough to have seen Martin Donnelly play in England and remembered, above all, Donnelly’s cap. Someone else watching the same game may well have remembered something completely different. Another gentleman at the recent Test match here bought quite a few of the old Playfair Cricket Annuals because “when I was a kid I used to collect them with my old man”. To other people they are just another book.
I have also come to realise how Test cricket has it’s own rhythm. So does life, of course, and for quite a few of our visitors they are very closely connected. There are the two ladies who come to each Test Match at the Basin and try and sit, for part of the time at least, where they used to sit with their dads “all those years ago”. The days seemed to last forever then and, now, they bring their own children as a way of connecting with a past time. ” One day they’ll understand”, one of the women said to me. Like others, the two mums look at the exhibits in the Museum and some of the displays bring back a part of someone and something they loved. I don’t think it too fanciful to think that one day their children will do exactly the same.
So memories are what we deal in a lot of the time at the Cricket Museum and I believe that the gentleman who left us all his cricket books understood that as well as anybody. He gave his memories to create, or re-kindle, memories in people he will never know, and he gave us a part of himself that his family can always find. Thank you sir, it’s our privilege to have you with us.
The New Zealand Cricket Museum relies on generous donations, of the sort we collected last week, to ensure our collection continues to grow. As well as being on display in the Museum at the Basin Reserve, our collection is constantly used by authors, researchers, family historians, cricket fanatics, and more. If you’d like to add to our archive, or do some research of your own, please contact us.