The expat origins of ‘gung-ho’: Rewi Alley, a New Zealander in China

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  • Rewi Alley teaching at Shandan School, Gansu, China. Alley, Rewi, 1897-1987 Photographs. Ref PA1-q-685-7-14. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. records23079924
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  • Definition-of-Gung-Ho-from-the-New-Zealand-Oxford-Dictionary-2005-p.-479.jpg

History curator Kirstie Ross writes about the impact that a New Zealander, Rewi Alley, had on China and spoken English, 90 years after his arrival there. ‘Gung-ho’ is a phrase that I use quite often, to describe a ‘boots-and-all’ attitude. According to the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary: What I didn’t know is that it made its… Read more »

Curating to heal: Ways of creating sovereign spaces in museums

Dominion Museum Education Service School Case. Black and white file print from negative MA_B.010164. Te Papa

Mātauranga Māori curator Matariki Williams discusses the role of curators healing past wrongs, something being addressed in our new exhibition about motherhood and Māori women. At Museums Australasia last year, a conference convened by the New Zealand and Australian museums associations, visiting Metis academic and artist David Garneau interrogated the etymology of the word ‘curate’. Garneau… Read more »

How Rita Angus landscapes inspired a Starfish collection

  • Text from Laurie Foon notebook
  • Heirloom workbook featuring fabric scraps and a postcard of a painting by RIta Angus
  • Text from Laurie Foon notebook
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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. Read his first blog here. “It’s my product. It’s my vision. It’s my dream. It’s my life,” writes Laurie Foon, founder of the Starfish… Read more »

Cinematic Renaissance animation starring Ursula the bear

Bears Plate 3

Dr Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, explores a highly unusual set of etchings which depicts a day in the life of a huge, shaggy, brown bear.  Meet Ursula… In a pioneering set of prints, the Flemish artist Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (c. 1520–1590) chronicled a day in the life of a huge, shaggy brown bear… Read more »

An action-packed Anzac week: WWI, live performances, arts and craft, and fashion

S. Rosamond Praeger working on the decoration of the 
façade of the Thomas Andrews/Titanic Memorial Hall. Photo courtesy of Joseph McBrinn.

The forthcoming ‘Anzac week’ is going to be an action packed one for Te Papa, with a wide range of events on offer for both adult and family audiences that explores aspects of the First World War and beyond. Family theatre – An Awfully Big Adventure If you are looking for a family outing over Anzac Weekend, you might… Read more »

Meeting John Clarke, and cleaning Fred Dagg’s gumboots for customs

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Comedian John Clarke has died, aged 68, but he lives on through our collections. Curator Stephanie Gibson recounts the story of how Te Papa acquired beloved Kiwi everyman Fred Dagg’s iconic outfit. Te Papa mourns the passing of John Clarke. To many New Zealanders he is Fred Dagg. Fred Dagg appeared on New Zealand television in 1973. Only three… Read more »

The stories found ‘behind’ the photograph

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There are many obvious differences between digital photography and traditional photography. One that probably doesn’t spring to mind is a photograph’s reverse side, which is non-existent in digital. Lissa Mitchell, Curator Historical Photography, looks at the ‘other side’ of photography. How often do you think of a photograph as a physical object these days? When we look at photographs… Read more »

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 »