The distribution of kōwhai and its close relatives throughout the Southern Hemisphere has intrigued scientists, including Charles Darwin, for over 150 years. Recent research led by Lara Shepherd has revealed more about the relationships among this iconic group of plants. Sophora sect. Edwardsia is a group of 19 species of small trees or shrubs mostly… Read more »

Metamorphosis and pineapples: The illustrations of Maria Sibylla Merian

Detail from The Surinam Album

Who was Maria Sibylla Merian? Librarian Christine Kiddey uncovers the fascinating story of the woman behind the remarkable The Surinam Album, full of lavish illustrations of flora and fauna from the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt into a family of artists and book publishers, and… Read more »

The body as a nursery: a wētā’s grim end

A preserved giant weta in a jar with a very long worm coming out of its behind

Despite appearances, this is not a mutant tree wētā. The coils emerging from the rear of the wētā belong to one or more Gordian (or horsehair) worms. Bug expert Dr Phil Sirvid explains the bizarre behaviour of this parasitic worm and why this specimen is a tour favourite. A tour favourite We don’t have any… Read more »

Five artworks for people who should be doing chores instead of looking at art

Handy Andy with red, 2010, by Bill Culbert. Purchased 2010. Te Papa (2010-0021-1/A-B)

Do you currently have a long list of things you need to do around the house? Modern art curator Chelsea Nichols helps you procrastinate a little longer with five artworks from Te Papa’s collection. Chore #1: Cleaning the house Is your home full of stubborn grease and dirt? Well, Bill Culbert’s Handy Andy with red (2010)… Read more »

Help us identify some 17th century butterflies, moths, and bugs

Hollar blog 6

Think you know your bugs? Art curator Dr Mark Stocker has been working on a project along with our bug experts, Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper, to identify a number of butterflies, moths, and other insects (including a snail) in some 17th century prints by Anglo-Czech etcher Wenceslaus Hollar. But they haven’t managed to identify them… Read more »

Garments as canvases and zero waste design: The work of Greta Menzies

  • Examples of Greta Menzies’ work. Photographs courtesy of Greta Menzies
  • Examples of Greta Menzies’ work. Photographs courtesy of Greta Menzies
  • Examples of Greta Menzies’ work. Photographs courtesy of Greta Menzies
  • Examples of Greta Menzies’ work

What comes to mind when you think of textile design? Fashion? Furnishing? Cloth? Curatorial intern Sonya Withers looks at the work of Greta Menzies. Textile designers are hard to pin, as their practice can span multiple mediums, spaces, and creative thinking. International examples have shown technical experimentation in the defence force around wearable tech that… Read more »

Athol McCredie, Curator Photography, reflects on the life of New Zealand photographer Len Wesney. I was stunned and saddened to learn that Christchurch photographer Len Wesney died tragically in a house fire on 14 August 2017. I spent nearly a day with him in February this year and had planned a return visit soon. Wesney… Read more »

At Te Papa we’re constantly photographing our collection items – whether that be art works, historical objects, or scientific specimens.  Recently, our imaging specialist Jean-Claude Stahl has taken pictures of some bizarre creatures – water bears, also known as tardigrades. Here, Jean-Claude explains why photographing a water bear is such a ‘bugbear’ and bug expert Phil Sirvid fills us in… Read more »

Another extinct bird: Northland’s unique shag

Leucocarbo Tennyson 216

Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson discusses another previously unknown New Zealand bird extinction, published in a new article today.  Last month it was revealed that New Zealand had lost its unique swan in prehistoric times. That list of extinctions continues to grow at an alarming rate as research, led by an Otago University team, published… Read more »

In photos: Giant eggs, tiny eggs, and the eggceptionally rare

  • Eggstremes. South Island giant moa and rifleman eggs to the same scale. Specimens ME.012749 and OR.007264 (latter collected by Captain John Bollons at Akaroa, date unknown). Photogtaph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • Laughing owl egg (44.2 mm x 39.5 mm). Locality and date unknown. Specimen OR.030062. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • New Zealand dotterel clutch, Maketu Spit, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Specimen OR.029416, eggs approx. 45 mm x 32 mm. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • South Island kokako egg (42.0 mm x 27.4 mm), Hokitika, date unknown. Specimen OR.007626. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa

Bird expert Colin Miskelly highlights some of the treasures in our egg collection, including those thought to be held only by Te Papa – as well as giant moa eggs, tiny rifleman eggs, and eggs that were acquired during dramatic events in New Zealand’s conservation history. Digitising our egg collection Most of the bird eggs held… Read more »