Elephants on your dinner table – looking at an old trade catalogue

Elephant (detail) from catalogue

Librarian Christine Kiddey browses for jelly moulds and other assorted household items in a trade catalogue from 1850. What do you do with all those trade catalogues and advertisements that come through your letterbox? You probably glance through them and throw them out. But imagine someone looking at those same catalogues a century and a half from… Read more »

The strange things we find in our donation box (and what we do with them)

The back of a 10 shilling note

If you’ve ever visited Te Papa you’ve probably seen our donation box – and if you’ve put some dollars (or Euro, or yen) in there, we thank you. But it’s not all brand spanking new $2 coins that we receive. Financial accounting manager Peter Corley dives into the box and discovers some of the more interesting items we’ve… Read more »

In memory of Andrew Pfeiffer – Royal New Zealand Ballet’s ‘Master of the Wardrobe’

Andrew Pfeiffer - Wardrobe Master of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Credit Susana Lei’ataua  Courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Senior history curator Claire Regnault pays tribute to New Zealand costumier and ‘Master of the Wardrobe’ at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Andrew Pfeiffer. On Friday 3 March, Andrew Pfeiffer passed away at the age of 69 at Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington, surrounded by friends. Andrew, who was also known as Drew, or simply… Read more »

Paul Cullen (1949-2017) – tribute to ‘witty and whimsical’ New Zealand artist

Paul Cullen stands beside his artwork A Garden

We are saddened to hear of the recent death of Auckland artist Paul Cullen (1949-2017). He was a constantly intelligent presence in the contemporary art scene for over 40 years, and his final illness only served to catalyse his productivity to the very end. Poignantly, his exhibition Provisional Arrangements at Two Rooms, Auckland, only closed on 11… Read more »

What can kōwhai tell us about the location of New Zealand’s forests during the ice ages?

  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa. Photo: Leon Perrie
  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores kōwhai trees, one of New Zealand’s most widely recognised native plants and our unofficial national flower. Did you realise that we actually have eight species of kōwhai in New Zealand? Our DNA research investigating the relationships of these kōwhai species and where kōwhai trees were located during the ice ages has… Read more »

The global hunt for the original wandering albatross

"Chocolate albatross" in Vienna

Vertebrate Curator Alan Tennyson explores the history of the name of the wandering albatross and the hunt for the original specimens. The wandering albatross is one of the world’s greatest ocean wanderers, with individuals circumnavigating the Southern Ocean and travelling 120,000 km in a year. These albatrosses have been among the most high-profile of seabirds ever since… Read more »

Can New Zealand sustain its 119-year-old pension scheme as the population ages?

Sign, ’Polling Booth’, 1969, New Zealand, by Ministry of Justice. Gift of Chief Electoral Office, Ministry of Justice, 2007. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH011741)

As the government announces plans to raise the pension age for the first time since Richard Seddon passed old-age pensions in 1898, history curator Kirstie Ross questions whether New Zealand can afford to support its aging population based on historic practices and attitudes. Historians agree that the 1898 law introducing old-age pensions was one of… Read more »

International Women’s Day – inspiring ‘women’s work’

  • Lady Plunket. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives. Ref: 1/1-014571-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Binney
  • Eco Warrior Laurie Foon behind the scenes at NZ Fashion Week, 2009. Photography courtesy of Megan Robinson, Thread magazine.
  • Dress

Today is International Women’s Day. Initiated in 1910, International Women’s Day is ‘a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women’. This year’s theme is Women in the Changing World of Work. Playing with this idea, we would like to pay homage to women who have sought to create change through their work. We are… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – laughing gull

  • New Zealand’s first laughing gull, Opotiki wharf, January 2017. Image: Thomas Musson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Non-breeding Franklin’s gull, Papakura, October 2009. Image: Peter Frost, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ray McNamara feeding gulls in his backyard, Opotiki, January 2017. The laughing gull is perched on a fence post at top left. Image: Bob Rigter
  • Laughing gull in breeding plumage, Mexico, March 2015. Image: Nigel Voaden, New Zealand Birds Online

Christmas arrived two days early for Waikato bird-watchers Annette Taylor and David Riddell when they spotted New Zealand’s first laughing gull. They were heading to Gisborne, and had stopped for a picnic at Te Ahiaua Reserve, 7 km west of Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Te Ahiaua Reserve is on the shore of… Read more »

Wellington’s Central Park: A ramble through its history

Central Park gate (deatil). 2008. Photogrpah by Kirste Ross

Wellington’s Central Park – less familiar to many than the famous park of the same name in New York City – is one of the Wellington’s oldest public green spaces. History curator Kirstie Ross rambles through some of the highs and lows of its 114 year history. Central Park’s formal genesis, in 1913, is connected to… Read more »