Extracting DNA from dried plants – with an eraser

Hen and chickens fern after sampling with an eraser. This species has delicate fronds so the stem was sampled instead. Sampling site is arrowed.

Until now, it hasn’t been possible to get the DNA out of a pressed dried plant (herbarium specimen) without destroying part of it by removing a leaf and grinding it up.  But new research by scientist Lara Shepherd has proven that you can use an eraser to ‘rub off’ the DNA. Read Lara’s paper A non-destructive DNA sampling technique… Read more »

‘Democracy only works if we participate’: Women across Te Papa talk about their voting experiences

  • Ceramic mug featuring the likeness of Robert Muldoon's face
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Next year will mark the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa. Given that we are in an election year, we thought it timely to think about voting so we have asked women across Te Papa to reflect on their experiences with voting. Today is the second in a series of three posts featuring personal anecdotes… Read more »

We need you to help bring Leslie Adkin’s diaries to life

  • George Leslie Adkin's diary, well-worn and with a sticker on the cover saying May 1917 to Feb 1919
  • Poster featurign the flags of the Allies nations
  • Palmerston North library building from the early 1900s
  • Close up of Nancy in pram with teething bone in mouth

Horowhenua farmer Leslie Adkin kept a diary for 40 years from 1905, recording a huge amount of information of early 20th century New Zealand life, through war and peace. Te Papa is calling for volunteers to transcribe Leslie’s dairies from October 1917, just after he was conscripted to serve in the army, through to the end of… Read more »

Kōwhai seeds on Kermadec and Chatham Islands’ beaches

The bight yellow seeds of kōwhai are a familiar sight on New Zealand beaches.

Plants have many ways to disperse their seeds to a suitable spot where they can germinate. Kōwhai trees have bright yellow seeds that have the amazing ability to float on water, including across oceans. Experiments have shown that kōwhai seeds can remain afloat in seawater for years and still germinate. Recent research led by scientist Lara… Read more »

Faces in the crowd: Zooming in on our photography collection

Boys sit in a grandstand with one hiding his face behind a sheet of paper

If you look close enough you might find things you missed. Collections Data Technician Gareth Watkins uncovers the characters hidden in plain sight. I’ve always been fascinated with photographs of crowds. You get a palpable sense of in-the-moment energy and anticipation as spectators watch an event unfold before them, for example at a rugby game. But… Read more »

‘Your vote could make all the difference’: Women across Te Papa talk about their voting experiences

  • Image credit: Tim Onnes
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Next year will mark the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa. Given that we are in an election year, we thought it timely to think about voting so we have asked women across Te Papa to reflect on their experiences with voting. Today is the first in a series of three posts featuring personal… Read more »

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

Hollar blog 2 plate 9

This is the second part to Dr Mark Stocker’s series of blogs asking you to help identify a number of butterflies, moths, and other insects in a series of 17th century prints by Anglo-Czech etcher Wenceslaus Hollar. Mark has been working with Te Papa bug experts Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper to identify the insects but they… Read more »

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 »