Dreaming of the modern – Helen Hitchings

Photo of Helen Hitchings

It was while Helen Hitchings (1920-2002) was in hospital during the early 1940s that the idea of forming a gallery came to her. The Gallery of Helen Hitchings was opened in Wellington in 1949, her mission to promote an awareness of ‘good domestic design’, made by New Zealanders– up to date examples of modernism free… Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 5 – Moa

  • Skull and mandible of South Island giant moa (Dinornis robustus). Te Papa Collections Online S.028225
  • Skull and mandible of little bush moa (Anomalopteryx didiformis). Te Papa Collections Online S.035274
  • Skull and mandible of stout-legged moa (Euryapteryx curtus). Te Papa Collections Online S.030212
  • Pachyornis elephantopus Tmt

In common usage, the term ‘moa’ is often used as if it refers to a single species. This is a long way from the truth. Not only are nine different species recognised, but they are classified in three separate families. They were the best example of adaptive radiation among vertebrates in New Zealand (at least… Read more »

Captain Cook’s inspirational waistcoats

Alison Larkin's replica of Captain Cook's waistcoat on display at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, 2015. Photo courtesy of Alison Larkin.

Te Papa’s Captain Cook waistcoat During Te Papa’s recent ‘Open House’ weekend many visitors on the Costume & Textile Store tour were captivated by Captain Cook’s waistcoat, or at least a waistcoat reputed to have been worn by the great explorer. The beautifully embroidered waistcoat is said to have come from a house where James Cook once stayed.  The… Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 4 – Rails

  • Skull of North Island takahe (Porphyrio mantelli). Te Papa Collections Online S.024736
  • Chatham Island coot (Fulica chathamensis). Te Papa Collections Online OR.007937
  • Hawkins’ rail (Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi). Te Papa Collections Online OR.007967
  • Mounted chick of Chatham Island rail (Cabalus modestus). Te Papa Collections Online OR.001371

Rails are a group of birds that include the familiar pukeko and weka, and also takahe, coots, and the small, secretive crakes that inhabit densely vegetated wetlands. At least 14 species of rails were living in New Zealand before human contact, eight of which have since been lost. As with all New Zealand’s extinct birds,… Read more »

Holy mums-to-be! Rossetti at Te Papa

2 & 6 Visitation Rossetti

Mad for Rossetti ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Even the name is extravagant, evoking Italy’s greatest poet and the angel of the Annunciation. It well suited Rossetti, for he was an extravagant man – in his art, in his poetry and in his emotions. Brilliant, witty, generous and loyal, he was irresistible to friends and to lovers’…. Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 3 – Waterfowl

  • Skull of South Island goose (Cnemiornis calcitrans). Te Papa Collections Online S.035266
  • Skull of Chatham Island merganser (Mergus milleneri). Te Papa Collections Online S.029496
  • Skull of Finsch’s duck (Chenonetta finschi). Te Papa Collections Online S.038931
  • Auckland Island merganser (Mergus australis). Te Papa Collections Online OR.001357

‘Waterfowl’ is a collective term usually applied to swans, geese and ducks. They all belong to a single family (Anatidae). No other family of birds has suffered so many species extinctions in New Zealand. Seven named species of ducks and two geese have become extinct in the last 800 years, and a tenth extinct species… Read more »

A Bird in the Hand: How to catch a Westland Petrel

A Bird in the Hand: A Westland Petrel is gently held by Te Papa scientist Jean-Claude Stahl after being weighed.
Photo: Kate Whitley, 2015 © Te Papa

The last vestiges of light are fading over Paparoa National Park, Westland in the South Island of New Zealand. As the skies darken, a magnificent silhouette can be seen soaring above a small group of scientists. Soon one silhouette becomes many and within fifteen minutes of the first sighting, birds begin to plummet down into… Read more »

As I listened to Judith Jones, one of Te Papa’s hosts trained in audio description, describing the tumultuous sea, the approaching storm and the strange geography of Nicholas Chevalier’s Cook’s Strait New Zealand c. 1885, I ‘saw’ the painting as never before. For the other tour participants, listening acutely, this was their first encounter with… Read more »