Jemima’s tangled tale

Jemima’s tangled tale

It’s great that folks are interested in the Play School toys. This week they’re some of the most viewed objects in Collections Online. I’ve also loved the way Invercargill is having a debate on where the clock should be. Read stuff story on the clock

I’ll stay out of that, but I’ve been finding out how the toys came into Te Papa’s collection. Here’s what I’ve found out about Jemima.

Rag doll ’Jemima’
Rag doll ’Jemima’

Kirstie Ross, one of our history curators, told me what she knows. The story goes that Jemima was rescued years ago from a rubbish bin outside TVNZ. We think her rescuer was, at the time, a TVNZ employee. 

I was surprised Jemima was thrown away, but Kirstie told me they replaced the toys periodically as they wore out. This shocked me – more than one Jemima! But once I had calmed down a bit it made sense – of course they wore out – the show was on air for 15 years.

Kirstie says Jemima was naked when she came into the museum – but we decided it was a good idea for her to be dressed when she appeared online.

Teddy bear (Big Ted)
Teddy bear ("Big Ted")

You can see that Jemima’s hand is damaged and the stuffing is coming out. I was surprised that Te Papa hadn’t repaired it – remember I am an IT person not a museum professional. Kirstie assured me our conservators have stabilised her arm so no more damage occurs but we don’t fix collection objects. Their condition is part of their story – the patina of age.

Anyway, we believe Jemima’s rescuer left her on the West Coast when she went to live in Australia where she unfortunately passed away.

Jemima came to Wellington in 2005 after the family of her rescuer offered her to Te Papa. Interestingly Manu, Humpty and Big Ted all came to Te Papa together in 2004. They had previously been with Whitebait TV Productions.

And as for Little Ted…. well we know his body is in Dunedin. Somehow the mystery around Little Ted fits my memory of him. I remember him as a bit naughty – in a charming sort of way.

I also remember Humpty as grumpy and Big Ted as responsible. Can anyone else remember what the toys were like?


  1. Hey thanks – this is great – the mystery of Little Ted continues.

    If this isn’t his real body, but one of the old ones, then where did the real Little Ted go?

    I love the photo though, and I’d like to find out more about Humpty’s country cousin.

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