America’s First World War posters

Poster featuring Uncle Sam pointing a finger the viewer. Text says 'I Want You For U.S. Army'

One hundred years ago the United States of America declared war on Germany and its allies on 6 April 1917. History curator Stephanie Gibson looks at American propaganda posters from the time, some of which were on display in New Zealand. In the months that followed the declaration, millions of dramatic, emotional and persuasive American… Read more »

Smokin’! When cigarettes and fashion went hand in hand

Before cigarette advertising was banned in New Zealand, Benson & Hedges enjoyed a close relationship with the fashion industry. Senior history curator Claire Regnault looks at the role tobacco played in the Fashion Design Awards. Turning dreams into gold Last weekend I travelled to Dunedin to attend iD Fashion Week’s famous railway fashion show and to see the exhibition When Dreams Turn to… Read more »

Makeshift money: Tokens in the Te Papa collection

  • A busy trading centre: Auckland in the 1850s. Hogan, Patrick Joseph, 1804-1878. [Hogan, Patrick Joseph], 1804-1878 :Auckland (Nouvelle-Zelande). Vue du nouveau quai - page 210 [Paris, l'Univers illustre, 1860]. Ref: A-438-012. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22371053
  • Coombes as depicted in Observer, Volume 5, Issue 130, 3 March 1883. He is holding a hose, as he was well known for hosing down the path outside his store to prevent dust.
  • Obverse of token issued by Samuel Coombes, New Zealand, minted by Thomas Stokes of Melbourne. Te Papa (NU002330)
  • Reverse of token issued by Samuel Coombes, New Zealand, minted by Thomas Stokes of Melbourne. Te Papa (NU002330)

Prompted by an enquiry from an independent scholar, history curator Katie Cooper has been researching a series of 19th century tradesmen’s tokens in Te Papa’s numismatics collection. Here she provides a brief history of this fascinating colonial currency. A shortage of change In the early 19th century a variety of foreign coins were circulating in New… Read more »

Coastal kōwhai in the south of its range – natural or planted?

Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica). This species can be distinguished from other kōwhai species by its overlapping leaflets and lack of divaricating stage when it is young. Photo by Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores the distribution of kōwhai in New Zealand – largely found in the north and likely introduced in the south.  Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica) has a very unusual distribution. Some of its outlying populations are suggested to have been planted by Maōri. We recently published our research studying the relationships of all eight New Zealand kōwhai… Read more »

Cuckoos and their toxic prey – ‘urticated’ inside and out

  • Shining cuckoo. Photograph by Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online
  • SC_SW53098
  • Red admiral butterfly caterpillar (pale morph). Photograph by Norm Twigge
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla). Photograph by Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Cuckoos can stomach toxic caterpillars, but it appears they are also impervious to being stung externally, as bird expert Colin Miskelly discovers. A previous blog on this topic referred to shining cuckoos seeking out and eating prey that are toxic to other birds – including caterpillars with urticating hairs. ‘Urticating’ refers to hollow spines that… Read more »

Young photographers display their work in a virtual gallery

Child viewing virtual art gallery

Te Papa Senior Advisor, Museum Education Tara Fagan spends some time with young children as they get creative in virtual reality. The Hīnātore learning lab had its youngest group of visitors recently. Ten four-year-olds, and their teachers, from Tai Tamariki Kindergarten visited the lab as part of their visual arts programme. They were building on their knowledge of… Read more »

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 »