One of the most generous ways museums acquire items for their collections is from individuals donating things they have made for the benefit of others. This is one way that unique material becomes available to the public and especially to researchers. It is in this spirit that David Carson-Parker, who died 21 October, donated many decorative art and photographic items to Te Papa. However it is the donation of photographs taken by David himself that makes up the largest share of his legacy to the museum.
During the 1960s David travelled around the North Island of New Zealand taking photographs on 35mm colour slide film of numerous meeting houses. Described by David as a ‘personal project’ – I assume he meant self funded – he used Carved Maori Houses of Western and Northern Areas of New Zealand (1955) by William J. Phillips, as a guide book to identify where to go. Now these images provide a valuable record of how these wharenui (meeting houses) looked prior to restoration.
Through his involvement in the New Zealand Potters Association, David also took photographs documenting the visit of British potter Michael Cardew to Wellington in early 1968. Cardew was an important influence on New Zealand potters such as Peter Stichbury. During Cardew’s visit he demonstrated his method of work to local potters and David’s black and white photographs still enable us to see something of the potter at work – physically stretching, kneading and shaping clay.
Sometimes David’s donations were quite personal. One of my favourite items David gave to Te Papa is a beautiful spoon made in Dunedin by Frank Hyams and gifted to David’s grandmother, by her husband, on the birth of David’s mother Elizabeth, in 1903.
David took on many roles that directly supported the creative sector, including a stint as President of the Friends of Te Papa. On behalf of staff at Te Papa I extend our sympathy and condolences to David’s partner and family.