It’s just 2 weeks now since Slice of Heaven opened and the word from Te Papa’s hosts is that it’s “what New Zealanders have been waiting for!” This is my first blog – ever.
I was one of the team working behind the scenes to bring the stories from 20th Century Aotearoa into the museum. After 2 years of intense work, I’m excited to be able to record my own impressions of this amazing journey.
Today, I took a moment to stand on the bridge and watch visitors explore things below. It’s a fantastic feeling to see everything come to life, observing people from different backgrounds, different generations, really engaged with the displays, absorbed in reading or watching, talking to each other about things familiar, a memory recalled, an experience shared – things that connect us all together.
I find myself returning to the World War II section, to the exquisite recreation of a scene depicting a New Zealand family in their living room in the winter of 1942, when American Forces arrived to protect us from the threat of Japanese invasion.
Every detail is considered, from the wallpaper to the gas mask. The mother holds a ration book in hand as her daughter appears to be ready to go out to a dance, and the young son in his pyjamas plays with a jigsaw puzzle. Dad is due at Home Guard practice. For me, imagining the lives of these lifelike mannequins is not the only thing pulling me back there, though.
On the wall of their room is a framed photograph of a handsome, smiling young man in his early twenties. He wears a Royal Navy uniform confirming his recent commission. He’s there to represent all New Zealand men and women who left home to serve overseas during the war.
His name is Bruce Reginald Donald. I am so proud to be his daughter.
I can’t wait to hear Alison Parr talking about the experiences of New Zealanders on the home front during WWII. Alison is a senior historian with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and her wonderful book, Home, is based on interviews with many men and women who kept the home fires burning. It’s a powerful read.
Alison Parr gives a floortalk in Slice of Heaven tomorrow, Saturday, 16 October at 12.15pm. Don’t miss it!