Last week Brendon McCullum wrote himself into cricketing history and elevated cricket back to its age-old status as New Zealand’s summer game. The Basin Reserve, our oldest Test venue and scene of many of the Black Caps and White Ferns finest moments, was packed with fans – many in their suits – on a Tuesday morning, all living-and-breathing every minute and every moment on the field.d every moment on the field. When McCullum finally brought up his 300th run and became the first player in New Zealand history to score 300 in a Test, every one of those fans stood and applauded.
Behind the scenes, many people involved with cricket also stood and applauded. The achievements of both national cricket teams this year have proven what many in the sport industry already knew: success breeds success. A year out from the biggest summer in New Zealand cricketing history, when we co-host the Cricket World Cup with Australia, this summer’s on-field performances have provided a boost to the sport that only winning can give.
This success is being celebrated somewhere else too: at the New Zealand Cricket Museum. In the most obvious sense, this summer is another story in the history of cricket, another story to be interpreted and another story to celebrate during those moments where success is a distant memory. But it’s more than that; it drives home the place of nostalgia as an important interpretive tool.
The New Zealand Cricket Museum has been undergoing many changes over the past year centred on a renewed focus on celebrating cricket from the perspective of the fans. A demographically-broad audience, cricket fans are bound together by the game they love. Players and moments drove them to that love of the game, and these are the memories – ‘nostalgia’ – that help them identify their place in the game. The fact that so many patrons filed into the Basin Reserve last Tuesday morning, cancelling meetings and scheduling ‘meetings’ to get out of the office, is a testament to this – many remembered the moments where players had got close to the 300-run mark, many wanted to say they were there when it was crossed.
Sport museums are often seen to sit on the edge of the field, or even on the edge of culture. But, as interpreters, they offer us a valuable insight into the value of nostalgia. Interpretation talks a big game when it comes to its audience and understanding them. Demographics, like age, salary, family, are often used to define and describe our audiences. Taken from marketing theory and practice, these terms generally offer little assistance to interpreters in attempting to connect on a personal level with their audience. Sport museums look to their community for definition and build on shared experience and memory: nostalgia. Nostalgia is often viewed as a rose-tinted view of the past that is skewed by personal experience. Many museums and cultural institutions are only just starting to open up to the engagement value of nostalgia. Sport museums are just wondering what’s taken everyone else so long to get with the programme.