December 23, 2011

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

All, Collections


Protest – No place for dogs, bicycles, babies or weapons

Poster calling for protests agains the US Invicible's visit to Auckland

In a wee storeroom off the top of a stairwell is the Museum’s collection of ephemera. The array of acid free cardboard boxes contain everything from dance cards to fast food menus. The box that is the subject of this blog is a window into two of the great protest movements in New Zealand’s recent history.

It contains pamphlets from the anti-nuclear protests of the 1970s and 80s, and from the Springbok Tour protests of 1981.

It seems a fitting subject for an end of year blog, given that Time magazine declared “the Protester’ its 2011 person of the year (yes, they still use the singular).

Nearly every right we enjoy today, from the right of women to vote through to equality before the law came through people who stood up and demanded change. People who protested, who argued and who mobilised.

A nuclear warhead heads for NZ

New Zealand’s anti-nuclear protests gathered intensity during the 1970s. Visits by nuclear capable US navy ships brought thousands out to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons. It was a time when the annihilation of life on Earth felt imminent. It seemed an exchange of warheads between the two great Cold War superpowers, Russia and the United States, could be precipitated at any momemnt by an accident or geopolitical incident spiralling out of control.

New Zealander’s anti-nuclear campaign culminated in the decision by the then recently elected Labour government to declare New Zealand nuclear free in 1984.

The most divisive protest movement in recent New Zealand history came when the New Zealand Rugby Football Union invited the Springboks to tour in 1981. Opposition was instantaneous. The first protests attempted to dissuade the NZRFU from hosting the Springboks, who were representing the racist apartheid regime of the white South African government.

Handbook for Springbok tour protestors in the north of the country

Protests began well before the Springboks arrived

The NZRFU went ahead with the tour and the protest movement grew and grew. The country came as close to a kind of civil war as was imaginable. The protests culminated at the final test in Auckland’s Eden Park. A pamphlet from that protest informs marchers that there is “no place for dogs, bicycles, babies or WEAPONS”.

Handout for protestors at the Eden Park match, who had been placed in the Biko group

It also tells them to be prepared to manoeuvre

- To jog

- To stop

- To wheel

- To turn on the spot

Which seems fitting advice to anyone who wants to make the world a better place.

Merry Christmas.

December 21, 2011

Posted by:

Kirsten MacFarlane

All, Exhibitions


Ocean adventurer

When you watch Steve Hathaway’s footage of a giant orca scooping up a stingray by its tail, you are witnessing an underwater exposé. Orcas are not bumbling brutes; they’re nimble creatures with the nous to capture dinner without getting stung.

Steve’s extraordinary footage was also a revelation to Dr Ingrid Visser from the Orca Research Trust and has been viewed by millions. It’s just one of hundreds of underwater encounters that Steve wants to share with the world. ““I’m passionate about the ocean and want to show how incredible New Zealand’s underwater world is. Most people don’t realise how good we have it here, they will be blown away,” enthuses Steve, whose film work is on show in Alain ‘Sharky’ Coasteau’s ‘submarine’ in the Poisoners exhibition.

Steve Hathaway

Steve Hathaw

Underwater cameraman is a niche profession, but Steve is determined to make it pay. “Underwater diving has been my passion since I was a kid, so I’m following my dream to capture the magic of marine life.”

From his base in Snells Beach near Goat Island, Steve has a charter boat rigged for underwater film production and supplies footage for the likes of BBC, Discovery, National Geographic and PBS.

One of his lucky breaks came after filming the dramatic rescue of a stranded Orca, which features Dr Visser and some locals literally shoving the young orca back out to sea and its waiting mother. In between film work, he takes tourists on guided underwater tours, supplying them with edited footage of their experience. He also writes a blog and produces a video blog that links with his articles in NZ Fishing News.

His favourite filming location is the Poor Knight Islands. “The Poor Knights are some of the best diving you can experience anywhere in the world and it’s right on our doorstep. Like all marine reserves they give Kiwis the opportunity to experience a piece of NZ coastline that is as close as what it would have been like when Maori first came to these shores. Without doubt visiting the Poor Knights should go on everybody’s bucket list!”

steve filming orcas

Steve filming orcas

Steve says filming in New Zealand waters is different to filming in the tropics. “The waters are cooler than the tropics, but with cooler temperatures you get kelp and seaweed, which adds diversity and interest. New Zealand is a stunning place and we can learn so much. We have it so good here and we need to appreciate it and look after it for future generations.”

And his scariest encounter? “I was filming a pod of orca and I was just so absorbed that I was blissfully unaware that the largest one was behind me, playing with my fins. I thought all of the pod had already swum past me, when all of a sudden this huge male orca was right next to my shoulder eyeballing me! It felt like my heart had jumped into my head, and it took a couple of minutes for my heart rate to drop”

But like all good camera operators, he kept his cool.  “My favourite part of the day is watching the footage and analysing my shots. Later that day I was shocked that the camera didn’t jump at all when I was filming this experience.”

Nga Pou Whakarae

Welcome to this week’s preview of Tamaki Paenga Hira, an informative program currently featuring on Maori Television exploring 13 taonga Maori from the Auckland War Memorial Museum collections.

Episode 11: Nga Pou Whakarae

This week we are introduced to the three tribes who hold mana whenua in the Auckland region. Three carved pou (ancestral carved posts), two from the Museum’s collections and the third commissioned for the exhibition, are used to represent the tribes.

(L-R) The 3 representing Ngati Whatua O Orakei, Tainui and Ngati Paoa.

(L-R) The 3 representing Ngati Whatua O Orakei, Tainui and Ngati Paoa.

The three tribes – Ngati Whatua O Orakei, Tainui and Ngati Paoa – reflect the tribal composition of Auckland Museum’s Taumata-a-iwi. The Taumata-a-iwi’s role is to advise the Museum in relation to  matters Maori and to fulfill customary obligations.

Te Whare o Riri is the pou that represents Ngati Whatua O Orakei. It originally stood at Otakanini Pa in South Kaipara and symbolizes Ngati Whatua O Orakei’s paramount tangata whenua status over Central Auckland, including the land the Auckland Museum stands on.

Although ancestral knowledge has been lost for the pou representing Tainui, the carving style adorning the pou is acknowledged as coming from the Waikato region to the South of Auckland. This pou travelled with the Te Maori exhibition from 1984 to 1987.

The third pou represents Ngati Paoa and was hewn by master carver Tu Karamaene (Pare Hauraki tribes) using stone tools. The pou represents Paoa, whom the tribe is named after, a famous ancestor associated with East Auckland Region.

Please note that the three pou are on display on the first floor of the Auckland Museum in Te Ao Turoa – the Maori Natural History Gallery.

Tamaki Paenga Hira, Episode 11: Nga Pou Whakarae screens on Maori Television, Wednesday 28th December 2011 at 8.30.

December 20, 2011

Posted by:

Kirsten MacFarlane

All, Exhibitions


Switching on the magic

Sharon Finn is perched on a ladder adjusting a cockroach that’s got itself twisted around the gilded cage of her chandelier. If you look closer, tiny artifical spiders, wasps, moths, and hornets dangle down from the cage. This fanciful chandelier, with its huge crystals and brass filigree, looks completely at home in the gothic-like domain of Toxica, one of the ‘suspects’ in The Poisoners exhibition at Auckland Museum.

Inside Toxica's boudoir

Inside Toxica's boudoir

If Toxica is keen on collecting animals of the stuffed variety, Sharon also has a penchant for “a bit of taxidermy”. She has been known to keep 100-year-old birds and pussycats in the gilded cages of her chandeliers – and Toxica’s majestic owl holds great fascination.

Sharon Finn (yes, wife to Neil) is the creative mind behind Sharondelier, which makes individually handmade chandeliers, jewellery and lady frames. Her work has featured on fashion runways, art galleries, inside the stairwells of private mansions, on stage at music concerts – and now a museum.

The designer, who has recently taken to the stage herself as part of Pajama Club, approaches her craft with a great deal of wit and cunning. “We are into recycling [vintage items]. We buy old chandeliers and pull them apart, especially those with a lot of brass and crystals.” 

Remember Pollyanna and her blindly optimistic ‘Glad Game’?  It’s a memorable moment when she takes apart her Aunt Polly’s chandelier and hangs the crystals all around the window frame so they dance around the room. Exhibition developer Janneen Love says Sharon has spread the joy by giving freely of her time to create the chandelier. As the technician adjusts the lighting in Toxica’s boudoir, the chandelier glows from high up in the ceiling. The magic is already switched on.

Sharon Finn and her chandelier

Sharon Finn and her chandelier

Sir Peter Buck’s sword

Welcome to this week’s preview of Tamaki Paenga Hira, an informative program currently featuring on Maori Television exploring 13 taonga Maori from the Auckland War Memorial Museum collections.

Episode 10: Sir Peter Buck’s sword

This week we are introduced to Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) whose military service sword is held in the Auckland Museum.

Buck was born at Urenui in December 1877 and had a largely European upbringing due to the influence of his father. He excelled through his school years and by 1896 he was attending Te Aute College where he was named dux and passed his medical exams. This entitled him to attend the University of Otago Medical School, where he completed his MB and ChB in 1904, and an MD six years later. He was a keen athlete during this period and he twice became national long jump champion.

In November 1905, after qualifying as a doctor, Buck was appointed as a medical officer to Māori, working under Maui Pomare. One of the features of his time in this position was the successful campaign to improve sanitation in the many rural Māori communities around the country.

In 1909 Buck was asked by Native Minister James Carroll to contest the Northern Māori seat after the sitting MP died suddenly.  Buck accepted and was elected in the subsequent by-election, and he went on to become a member of the Native Affairs Committee. It was during this period that Buck first developed an interest in the Pacific, spending short periods while on leave in both Niue and the Cook Islands as a medical officer. 

The outbreak of World War One saw Buck involved in encouraging Māori to volunteer to serve King and Country, before he himself joined the Māori volunteer contingent as medical officer. He travelled to the Middle East in 1915 and served at Gallipoli, before transferring to the infantry in 1916 where he rose to the rank of major. He was eventually Second-in-Command of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion. It was during this period in the infantry that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, “For distinguished service in the field [in France & Flanders].” He returned to the medical staff in 1918.

Peter Buck in France, 1917

Major Peter Buck accompanying Sir Thomas Mackenzie, New Zealand High Commissioner in London, in France during World War I. Photograph taken 9 or 10 September 1917 by Henry Armytage Sanders.

After the war Buck’s interests turned to anthropology, and he worked with ethnographer Elsdon Best to record the culture and music of Māori communities. He later commenced significant field work in the Pacific for the Bishop Museum (located in Hawaii) and eventually became that museum’s Director.

Buck wrote numerous publications during his time at the Bishop Museum, the most popular of which was Vikings of the Sunrise (1938). Buck died in Honolulu in December 1951 and his ashes were laid to rest at Okoki near Urenui in 1954.

Please note that the sword is not currently on display.

Tamaki Paenga Hira, Episode 10: Sir Peter Buck’s Sword screens on Maori Television, Wednesday 21st December 2011 at 8.30.

December 15, 2011

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

All, Exhibitions


From Road Kill to the Grand Exhibition Hall

Road kill. You’ve driven past it, you may have been responsible for it, but you probably haven’t stopped to pick it up and give it false teeth and googly eyes. Andrew Lancaster, on the other hand, has.

Andrew Lancaster's vampire hare, on display in The Poisoners!

An example of his work, a hare with vampire teeth and bloodshot eyes, is on display in the Lab of Madness in The Poisoners! exhibition, which has just opened here at Auckland Museum.

Throughout the almost 11,000 kilometres of New Zealand’s state highways, animals from possums to magpies lie strewn and lifeless. To Andrew Lancaster they are offerings to the art of the taxidermist.

“I live in the country so I drive out the gate and every other morning there is something that’s been hit, possums and rabbits, sometimes ducks.,” Andrew tells me on the phone from the Bay of Plenty.

Andrew learnt taxidermy as a teenager growing up in Yorkshire where he used to help his brother, who was working to become a professional taxidermist.

“You make as small an incision as you can get away with and get everything out that hole. Turn it inside out basically. Preparing the skin for mounting is the hardest part and that’s what I did for my brother.”

One of Andrew's mix and match creations

A baby-dove.... or a dove-baby

But it wasn’t until Andrew moved to New Zealand about 15 years ago that he took up taxidermy as a hobby. “I just thought it was a shame seeing them [road kill] all lying on the road.”

A few years ago he started playing around with the animals, mixing up body parts. “I got a bit tired of doing the everyday natural looking ones and with road kill some parts are badly damaged but there might be a nice pair of wings or legs so I just cut them off.”

He uses an old fashioned method of taxidermy, using wire and woodwool (fine wood shavings), rather than the expanding foam favoured by most modern taxidermists.

Not all his animals are road kill, occasionally hunters will give him animals to mount. And only recently an obliging thrush flew into his workspace, hit the window and landed dead on his bench ready to work on.

December 9, 2011

Posted by:

Kirsten MacFarlane

All, Exhibitions


Plastic fantastic squid goes on display for first time

It’s not every day you get to eyeball a Giant Squid. Not quite as big as saucers, but the eyeball in question has the measure of me. It’s a lens with the power to light up its prey in the murky underwater world of the South Ocean. Seemingly frozen in mid swim, one of its arms curves menacingly upwards, revealing a row of perfectly-formed suction cups. This giant squid (Architeuthis dux) is long since dead of course, now stretched out on a table in the basement of Auckland Museum. For all that it looks like it was freshly washed up on a beach; this is actually the result of expensive surgical handiwork normally reserved for preserving human tissues.

‘It’s called plastination,” explains Janneen Love, exhibition developer for The Poisoners! exhibition at Auckland Museum. “It’s like extreme plastic surgery for squids.’

Giant squid in Museum basement

Plastination replaces fat and body fluids with silicone to give specimens a freakily life-like appearance. The ‘operation’ was carried out at Von Hagens Plastination facility in China, where they specialise in animal plastinations. Dr Gunther Von Hagen invented the plastination process more than 30 years ago and the technique has since become popular in universities and museums. Von Hagens was behind the hit exhibition Body Works, which gives visitors an up-close-and-personal look at the workings of 200 real human bodies, complete with organs and transparent body slices.

AUT University’s Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Institute donated two squids to Dr. von Hagens and they were the first giant squid specimens to be plastinated. The entire process took two years, and getting a specimen with no skeleton to look natural was a challenge. Former AUT marine biologist Steve O’Shea told National Geographic magazine that ‘the giant squid – rare, delicate, and boneless – were the institute’s biggest plastination challenges yet’. The squid on display, which was plastinated at a cost of around NZ $1.5m, is on loan to the Museum for the duration of The Poisoners exhibition. In a series of talks at the Museum next year, Dr Kat Bolstad will explain the plastination process and background the stealth, diversity and bottomless appetites of these amazing invertebrates.

From tip to tentacle, this giant squid is an impressive 4880mm long and will be housed in one of the biggest display cases ever to be exhibited at Auckland Museum. Although more robust than a live specimen, the giant squid requires careful handling. It takes a five-strong team to carefully flip over the giant.

Production manager Andrew Jary says lighting objects is also a complex business. ‘If the lighting is too harsh, you can cause irreversible damage to objects. For natural history collection objects, we generally keep the light levels low, but because this squid is essentially plastic we can light it at a higher level.’

Love says many of the Museum’s natural history collection objects have never been on display before. ‘It’s a fabulous chance to see these creatures up close and personal.’

In a few days, the squid will be moved into the exhibition space, or more specifically a tank owned by the dastardly marine biologist Alain “Sharky” Coasteau. Visitors beware! This squid will be just as terrifying up close as the squid that lurked Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Giant squid (not to be confused with colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, found only in the Antarctic) reach lengths of up to 13m and weights of up to 275kg (in large females; males are slightly smaller). They are found throughout the world’s non-polar oceans (including around New Zealand), most commonly at depths of 200–600m. Healthy adult giant squid do not come to the surface.

A tale of two pataka: Te Puawai o Te Arawa and Te Oha

Welcome to this week’s preview of Tamaki Paenga Hira, an informative program currently featuring on Maori Television exploring 13 taonga Maori from the Auckland War Memorial Museum collections.

Episode 9: A tale of two pataka: Te Puawai o Te Arawa / Te Oha

This week’s program investigates two special pataka (food store houses) in the care of the Auckland Museum, ‘Te Puawai o Te Arawa’ and ‘Te Oha’.

Raureti Hemana, Napi Waaka and Jim Schuster, descendants of the carvers who built these pataka, introduce us to the histories behind these beautiful taonga.

Te Puawai o Te Arawa was commissioned by the Ngati Pikiao chief Te Pokiha Taranui (also known as Major Fox, of the famed Arawa contingent that pursued Te Kooti). Te Pokiha hired esteemed Ngati Tarawhai carvers Wero and Tene Waitere to build and carve the pataka in or about the 1870s. It eventually stood at Maketu for many years.

Te Puawai

This pataka was known by two names: Te Puawai o Te Arawa – The Flower of Te Arawa, and Tuhua Kataore – The Pit of the Taniwha: named after the house owned by Te Pokiha’s father, Taranui. Te Puawai o Te Arawa was purchased from Te Pokiha by the Auckland Museum in 1894.

Te Oha stood at Te Waerenga, on the northern shores of Lake Rotorua. It was completed about 1825 by Manawa and his son Tahuriorangi of Ngati Pikiao.

Te Oha

Te Oha

The pataka was eventually sold by Tahuriorangi’s son Te Mata Tahuriorangi to F.D Fenton for 50 pounds. After Fenton’s death, the pataka was purchased for the Auckland Museum with a special subscription by the citizens of Auckland. Te Oha was accessioned into the Auckland Museum in 1885.

Te Puawai o Te Arawa is on display in the Maori Court of Auckland Museum. Te Oha is currently on long term loan to Rotorua Museum.

Tamaki Paenga Hira, Episode 9: Te Puawai o Te Arawa / Te Oha screens on Maori Television, Wednesday 14th December 2011 at 8.30

Te Toki a Tapiri

Welcome to this week’s preview of Tamaki Paenga Hira, an informative program currently featuring on Maori Television exploring 13 taonga Maori from the Auckland War Memorial Museum collections.

Episode 8: Te Toki a Tapiri

This week’s program investigates the rich history of the waka taua (war canoe) Te Toki a Tapiri. Te Toki a Tapiri was built about 1836 near Wairoa on the East Coast for Te Waka Tarakau of Ngati Kahungunu. The massive waka was then traded to Te Waka Perohuka of the Rongowhakaata tribe of Poverty Bay before it had been fully carved: the transaction saw the famous cloak Karamaene traded in return for the waka.

Tauihu of Te Toki a Tapiri

Tauihu of Te Toki a Tapiri

The waka stayed in the possession of Perohuka until 1863, when it was presented to Tamati Waka Nene and his brother Patuone to commemorate the end of Ngapuhi’s musket raids on the East Coast. In return for Te Toki a Tapiri, Perohuka was given one of the first horses on the East Coast. Te Toki a Tapiri was brought to Auckland soon after the transaction was completed and eventually sold to Kaihau and Te Katipa of Ngati Te Ata.

The outbreak of the war in the Waikato saw Government forces impound a number of waka taua including Te Toki a Tapiri. The Government had feared the possibility of a seaborne attack by Maori on the southern outposts of Auckland, and they sent the Onehunga Coast Guard and the Rifle Volunteer by boat to Waiuku to seize any waka they could locate. Te Toki a Tapiri was seized in late November 1863 and subsequently towed to Onehunga by the steamer Lady Barkly. 

Orders where then issued to the Navy to destroy all the assembled waka and all but one of the canoes were destroyed. Te Toki a Tapiri was only saved by the persuasive efforts of Henry Brewer, the Collector of Customs at Onehunga. Brewer had the waka moved to the Customs House yard where it lay for a number of years.

A John Kinder photo probably taken in early 1860s at Onehunga when the waka was saved from being burnt by Imperial troops.

A John Kinder photo probably taken in early 1860s at Onehunga when the waka was saved from being burnt by Imperial troops.

Te Toki a Tapiri was eventually restored in 1869 and featured as the centre piece for the visit to Auckland of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Paora Tuhaere of Ngati Whatua of Orakei was then asked to care for the waka which he did until it was finally presented to the Auckland Museum by the government around 1881.

At 25 metres long and with a hull adzed from a single totara tree, the waka could carry up to 100 warriors. Te Toki a Tapiri is currently on display in the Auckland Museum’s Maori Court.

Tamaki Paenga Hira, Episode 8: Te Toki a Tapiri screens on Maori Television, Wednesday 7th December 2011 at 8.30.

December 1, 2011

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

All, Exhibitions, The Poisoners


The Poacher’s Lair

Some of the animals in The Poisoners are not only exotic but endangered and internationally protected. How they came to the Museum is a tale of smuggling and international law enforcement.

Which is fitting for an exhibition that features its very own Poacher’s Lair and wildlife smuggler, Anastasia van Abs.

Asian medicines containing endangered species are the most commonly seized items

Every week rare and endangered animals are confiscated at New Zealand’s borders under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). All species listed by CITES require a permit for import or export.

“They contain anything from tigers to pangolins, to parts of elephants, to ground ivory. It could be absolutely anything,” says Anita Jacobs, one of New Zealand’s four CITES officers.

She says there are about 50-60 seizures each week of items without a permit. Most are traditional Asian medicines containing endangered plants or animals.

Most of what is confiscated is destroyed, but some objects can be lent out to institutions like Auckland Museum for education purposes. And that is how the Museum comes to have a tiger skin, snakes in whiskey bottles, a wolf pelt and a mounted bear all going into The Poisoners.

A tiger skin confiscated under the CITES agreement

Auckland Museum technician Jason Froggatt, who spent time working as field conservationist in the United States, says handling the CITES objects was interesting.

An elephant tusk. It is illegal to import such an item without a CITES permit.

“Having dealt with live conservation, the stark absurdity of killing an elephant, and cutting off its tusks to make a beautiful ornament, of an elephant, is hard to deal with.”

Anita says the worldwide trade in illegal wildlife is worth almost as much as the illegal drugs trade. For those caught bringing in endangered plants and animals without a permit the punishment can range from three years in jail and/or a $50,000 fine up to $200,000 and/or five years in jail.

She says it is important travellers know not to buy tourist items which contain animal or plant material unless they can get a certificate showing they’re not from endangered species.

“CITES is not about prohibiting trade it is about managing it. It is about the need for international permits so we can monitor the trade. People are slowly but surely coming to understand that if they bring these things into the country they need a permit otherwise it will be seized.”