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 »

Pride and prejudice: LGBTIQ+ histories made visible

Bag, ’Dolly does Devotion’, 1997, Petone, by Colin McLean. Purchased 1997 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (GH005698)

Curating inclusive history collections that represent diverse experiences, including LGBTIQ+ stories, enables Te Papa to present Aotearoa New Zealand to ourselves and the world, says history curator Lynette Townsend. Efforts are made to ensure that the history collections represent historical stories from diverse cultural perspectives, ages, genders and sexualities. It’s an aspect of the curatorial… Read more »

Telling stories through fashion: A history of eco-friendly Starfish

Printed fabric samples from the Wonderland collection, Winter 2006, CA001200/004/0002. Photograph by Gareth Watkins

It’s not every day that you get to delve into the nitty-gritty details of a fashion label. Te Papa’s assistant archivist Gareth Watkins is going through Starfish’s archive, recently gifted to Te Papa. I’m sitting in a popular Wellington café with Te Papa archivist Jennifer Twist and Laurie Foon – founder of the Wellington-based Starfish fashion… Read more »

11,000 images on New Zealand Birds Online – and the Brooks family’s Big Year

  • The 11,000th image – a plumed whistling duck at Anderson Park, Taradale, December 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Jay Brooks searching for a marsh sandpiper, Miranda, October 2016. Image: Scott Brooks
  • Laughing kookaburra, Campbells Beach, Tawharanui, August 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ollie, Zef and Jay Brooks match their wingspans with that of an albatross, Taiaroa Head Albatross Centre, September 2016. Image: Scott Brooks

The 11,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online was of a rare vagrant Australian duck, and it comes with an inspirational back-story of family-based discovery and adventure. The image of a plumed whistling duck near Napier was one of more than 70 images that Northland-based photographer Scott Brooks loaded on the website following an… Read more »

Te Papa curators respond to Donald Trump’s refugee ban

1977-0017-3. Rudolf Gopas. Rocky coast, Kaikoura. 1959. Oil on hardboard. Purchased 1977 with Lindsay Buick Bequest funds.

In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s order to ban refugees entering the country, cultural institutions across the globe have been vocal in protest. Here Te Papa curators share their thoughts. He aha te mea nui o te ao? Māku e kī atu – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. What is the most precious… Read more »

Mysteries of the Phantom wooden shield: Putting together the pieces

Black lines following holes in the painted wooden surface, suggesting the probable pattern of lashing from a historic decorative scheme. Image created by Cat Williams.

Conservator Catherine Williams is investigating one of Te Papa’s recent acquisitions – a painted wooden shield from Papua New Guinea featuring The Phantom – from a conservation perspective, and blogging about it along the way. If you missed her first post, read it here. Uncovering the mysteries of a collection item such as the Phantom… Read more »