• A painting of the rainbow flag colours on a canvas sitting on a black background.

    Te Papa acquires a rainbow

    Collections Data Manager Gareth Watkins describes how an LGBTQI+ rainbow artwork by the famous flag maker Gilbert Baker has found a home at Te Papa.

  • Glow-worms in permanent lockdown – long enough for evolution to show?

    Who doesn’t know them, the little stars of Aotearoa – glow-worms? Titiwai, their Māori name refers to lights reflected in water. Who hasn’t been mesmerised by their sparkling light, visiting a cave or seeing them in the bush during a night walk? Insect Curator Julia Kasper talks about her research on the iconic critter with the glowing bum.

  • Black and white photo of a small hut with bags of kumara in front of it

    Living off the land: Lockdown gardens since forever ago

    In this blog curators Isaac Te Awa and Katie Cooper use objects and photographs from our collection to explore some of the strategies used in the past to produce and preserve food.

an orange and white slug with spikes

With large areas of the city protected in reserves, Wellington is known for being rich in biodiversity. But beyond the highly-visible kākā, tuī and pōhutukawa, how well do you know the plants and animals with which we share the city? Wellington recently competed in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge, an annual competition to see which city can record the most species during a four day period. Science Researcher Lara Shepherd thinks what we found lurking in our backyard might surprise you…Read more

Rare vagrant birds can be a challenge to identify correctly. In many migratory bird groups (e.g. waders, terns, and petrels), several species look very similar to each other. There are further complications with species that look very different depending on their age and breeding status (e.g. juvenile plumage versus adult non-breeding plumage, or adult breeding plumage). When a previously unrecognised vagrant species reaches New Zealand, it is even more challenging, as it will not be featured in New Zealand field guides and websites. Unless bird-watchers are thinking globally, a previously unrecorded species may be overlooked if it is misidentified as a species that is already on the New Zealand list. Curator Vertebrates Colin Miskelly describes how this was the initial fate of New Zealand’s first black tern.Read more

Adélie penguin, Gould Bay, Weddell Sea, Antarctica by Colin Miskelly.

A few years ago, our Vertebrate Curators Alan Tennyson and Colin Miskelly challenged Te Papa’s geneticist Lara Shepherd to identify a couple of penguin heads recovered from Antarctic toothfish stomachs. This year, Colin had another penguin puzzle for Lara to solve – what species was the headless penguin he found on a remote Rakiura | Stewart Island beach?Read more

Black and white photo of three young girls all dressed the same all holding baskets of flowers and smiling at the camera

Last year, Te Papa received a grant from Lotteries NZ towards the digitisation of the Spencer Digby / Ronald D Woolf Collection of around 250,000 photographic negatives shot between the 1930s and 1980s. The project is now well underway, with the first ‘drop’ of around 800 images just released on Collections Online. Athol McCredie, Curator Photography and Melissa Irving, Senior Imaging Technician tell us about the project.Read more

A red flower with green tips

Last spring, Te Papa’s Leon Perrie, Lara Shepherd and Bridget Hatton travelled to Whanganui to collect plant specimens from the garden of the late Ian and Jocelyn Bell. Many of the plants in the garden are rarely cultivated in New Zealand and were not represented in our botany collection. Research Scientist Lara Shepherd takes us behind the specimen-collecting scenes.Read more

This year Wellington is competing against over 400 cities worldwide, and five other New Zealand cities in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge. The aim of this friendly bioblitz-style competition is to record as many species as possible in the four days from 29 April to 2 May. With our fabulous array of forest and marine reserves, we hope Wellington can show the rest of the country, and the world, what a biologically diverse city we live in.Read more

A red fungi that looks like an egg beater with all the stalks joining at the top

Autumn is upon us and many fungi are emerging. Our Research Scientist Lara Shepherd takes us on a photo tour of New Zealand’s diverse fungi, lists resources to help you identify your fungal finds, and discusses that age-old question – can I eat it? New Zealand boasts a splendid arrayRead more

Whimsical, wondrous and winsome. British watercolours are all that – or, is it a matter of taste? Guest curator Annika Sippel talks about exhibiting works from the Archdeacon Smythe collection, in order to show the unexpected versatility of the medium and the taste of the collector.Read more

Professional rat catchers removing rats from Sydney following an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in 1900. Photo: NSW State Archives

Norway rats and house mice are two of the most widespread invasive species worldwide. But where did the Norway rats and house mice in New Zealand come from? Our geneticist Lara Shepherd and colleagues from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, University of Waikato, and Place Management NSW have shed some light on this question by sequencing DNA from rodent bones from a 19th-century archaeological site in Sydney.Read more