Collecting the spirit of Hawai‘i through aloha shirts

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  • Kealopiko's Pua Aloalo shirt. Te Papa.
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New Zealand and Pacific collections intern Sonya Withers and history curator Claire Regnault recently travelled to Hawai‘i where they collected 83 aloha shirts with a focus on indigenous Hawaiian designers. Claire Regnault reflects on the connection these designers have with their natural environment and how this inspires their designs. Why aloha shirts? In October, Sonya Withers… Read more »

Cross-pollination experiments with one of New Zealand’s rarest trees

Bartlett's rātā

When an incredibly rare native tree – the Bartlett’s rātā – flowered for the first time in a quarter-century, Botany curator Carlos Lehnebach was ready with his tweezers. Bartlett’s rātā is one of the most threatened trees in New Zealand. It’s also one of our rarest species, with only 13 trees left in the wild… Read more »

Further flax weevil finds from farthest Fiordland

  • Flax weevil on Round Island, Preservation Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Southern Winds in Cascade Basin at the head of Long Sound. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Flax weevil larvae, Preservation Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Sites where flax weevil feeding sign was noted in Chalky and Preservation Inlets in November 2017. Red arrows show islands where live flax weevils were found. Map based on NatureWatch sightings contributed by the Te Papa and DOC team.

Until 2016, flax weevils (large flightless protected beetles) were known from a single island in Fiordland. Recent surveys by Te Papa and Department of Conservation staff have now found evidence of them on a further 56 Fiordland islands. Here, Te Papa scientist Dr Colin Miskelly reports on the latest findings from remote southern Fiordland. What… Read more »

Seabird discoveries in remote southern Fiordland

  • Colin Miskelly searching for petrel burrows on one of the ‘Fingers’ of Five Fingers Peninsula, Resolution Island, with the Southern Winds below. Photo by Alan Tennyson. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion chick on an islet off the southern Fiordland coast. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Team members landing on outer Garden Island, Chalky Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion (left) and an Antarctic prion (right), Chalky Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

Te Papa scientists Alan Tennyson and Colin Miskelly recently joined a Department of Conservation-led survey of seabird colonies in remote Chalky Inlet and Preservation Inlet in southern Fiordland. The team made the most of an extended spell of fine weather to land on an astonishing 77 islands. Vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly here summarises some… Read more »

How a museum mount maker secures the nation’s treasures


Lots of works goes on behind the scenes to get objects ready for exhibition. Mount maker Callum Strong is tasked with creating mounts to display and protect the nation’s treasures. Here he explains the efforts that went into displaying the hīnaki, or eel trap, in our latest iwi exhibition, Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light… Read more »

Movembering Dr Hassell and his magnificent mo

Bust portrait of a middle aged man, holding a walking stick in his left hand. He has blue eyes, a ruddy complexion and an abundant ginger moustache that extends beyond the side of his face.

Rebecca Rice, Curator Historical New Zealand Art, explores a mystery behind Dr Gray Hassell’s magnificent moustache. There are two main reasons I feel an affinity with Dr Gray Hassell. Firstly, he was born in Oamaru, also my hometown, in 1860. Secondly, well, that moustache. In my childhood, my father sported a similarly magnificent mo. So… Read more »

Five things you never knew about Rodin

Rodin walking dogs

Art curator Mark Stocker highlights five fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) enjoyed a 20-year reign until the end of his life as the world’s most famous artist  – not just sculptor. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death, I am giving a public lecture on… Read more »

A new fungus for New Zealand discovered in Wellington’s Mount Vic

Battarrea phalloides in Wellington.

You don’t have to be in the wilderness to make biodiversity discoveries. One of our scientists, Lara Shepherd, recently made an exciting find whilst walking home from work. Earlier this year I was walking through Wellington’s Mount Victoria when I saw a very odd looking mushroom. It looked a bit like a like a puffball… Read more »

Remembering a national icon: Dame Margaret Karika Ariki (1919–2017)

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  • Dame Margaret

Pacific Collection Manager Grace Hutton pays tribute to Cook Islands tribal leader Dame Margaret Karika Ariki. In 1996 while working at Te Papa I flew to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to talk with Dame Margaret about her father, Makea Karika Pa George, D.C.M. I wanted to record an interview with her to find out… Read more »

Martinborough’s cave of bones: How thousands of flightless birds met their end

Adzebill skulls

Fossilised bird grave sites are common in New Zealand, but one particular cave in Martinborough has revealed thousands of bones of flightless birds who plunged to their deaths. Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson describes how over thousands of years rare and extinct birds such kakapo, kiwi, North Island takahe, and moa fell through the concealed… Read more »