So who would have guessed, shock, horror, the country’s going to run out of Marmite

Due to earthquake damage suffered in November the only factory that produces Sanitarium Marmite in NZ has had to close.   Until they get the factory up and running again they have warned that supplies are running out nationwide and across the ditch in Australia.  So black gold has been flying off the shelves across the nation.

Black gold has been flying off the shelves across the nation

Black gold has been flying off the shelves across the nation

The big boss himself is even rationing his supplies!

The more entrepreneurial amongst us have been buying up large and trading on the Black market aka Trademe.  Although a big ups to Gilmours in Hamilton for auctioning their last pail (yes you read right a 25kg pail), currently sitting at  $860.00, with the profits of the auction going to the charity of the winners choice.  Get in quick if your keen it closes tomorrow

The whole sorry affair has been dubbed Marmageddon.    So what is it about this black, gooey, disgusting looking substance that makes us Kiwi’s go gaga?  Marmite is one of those iconic symbols of Kiwi culture. Wikipedia names Marmite on a select list of 30 or so Kiwiana classics.  

According to Wikipedia Marmite is “a dark and salty spread made from yeast extract, similar to Vegemite. New Zealand Marmite is distinct from British Marmite, in taste and recipe. Marmite is made in New Zealand, as opposed to Vegemite, which is made in Australia.”

And therein lies the nub is it really such a big deal, what’s wrong with Vegemite?  Heresy, I hear you say!  The NZ Herald has been running an online poll Marmite or Vegemite? 

We are a nation divided by our loyalty to Marmite or Vegemite.  Personally I’m a Vegemite girl myself can’t stand the taste of Marmite.  What’s your preference?   While you are musing on the answer, if you haven’t already, come and check out our Hall of Fame in Identi-Tee featuring this Maorimite T-shirt kindly sponsored by our friends at Supaprints.  If you’re a Marmite fan I suggest you get your hands on one of these t-shirts now! 

Maorimite T-shirt

Maorimite T-shirt

And let’s leave the last word to our friends in Christchurch – “Thank you for your support and love of Marmite.  Don’t freak. We will be back soon!”

Identi-tee - My T-shirt, My Story

Identi-Tee @ ASB Polyfest 2012

A successful ASB Polyfest is done and dusted for another year. Running from 14th and 17th March 2012, at the Manukau Sports Bowl; it was hectic, it was loud and it was proud. And Auckland Museum was proud to have been a part of it again in 2012.

With tents at the Samoan, Maori and Tonga stages it was intense! 9000 secondary school performers and over 90,000 spectators makes Polyfest the largest Maori and Pacific cultural festival in the world, and staff were on a mission to capture as many t-shirts as there were being worn, and the response was amazing.

My T-shirt, My Story

My T-shirt, My Story

My T-shirt, My Story

Check out some of the t-shirts we captured at

Rare vagrants to our shores

Some of the birds just back from the taxidermists.

Over the last five months a variety of rare bird visitors have made their way to the Museum’s collections, having flown to New Zealand from as far afield as the tropics and subantarctic islands.

They include a crested tern, brown booby and tropic birds (all classified as rare tropical vagrants) as well as a brown skua that is normally at home in the subantarctic.

The birds were found dead on beaches near Tauranga, Muriwai, Coromandel and Tawharanui. The specimens will enrich our already substantial collections.

They first come to the Museum’s freezers. Those that are in a good condition are turned into ‘skins’, while those that have begun to decompose have the rest of their flesh and feathers removed (in a smelly process which basically involves letting them rot in jars of water) so their bones can be kept.

This week the specimens came back from the taxidermist, along with a variety of other birds, including a brown teal and a black shag.

A crested tern (bottom) and a tropic bird back from the taxidermist

They become part of a vast and valuable collection and associated database. Researchers might use them to glean information about the changing distribution or speciation of birds in the Pacific.  Or they may be useful in years to come by researchers using technologies that haven’t yet been invented.

Recently specimens collected in the 19th century for identification and display were used by a researcher unlocking secrets of pigmentation and evolution using new spectrometry technology.

Auckland Museum holds about 14,500 birds in our collection. And counting.

Identi-Tee @ Pasifika 2012

Warm Pacific greetings! Kia ora, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana, Bula vinaka, Taloha ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu.

We’ve had a huge weekend of t-shirts, music and great food at Pasifika. After hosting the visiting Pasifika Festival artists at the museum on Thursday night and unveiling the Identi-Tee exhibition, our Lifelong Learning team made an early start on Saturday morning to get the Auckland Museum site ready and in the perfect spot to capture Pasifika Festival-going t-shirt wearers.

The 20th Pasifika Festival yielded hundreds of t-shirts and stories, many of them now populating our gallery.

The team @ Pasifika are busy collecting tees!

The team @ Pasifika are busy collecting tees!

In between gathering our t-shirt stories and checking out the activities in each of the ten villages – Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tokelau, Niue, Tahiti, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Aotearoa – we also made the most of the food: incredible flying fish with a good serving of coconut cream, raw fish, chop suey and plenty of ice-cream with fresh pineapple.

Identi-Tee exhibition developer Janneen Love and educator Alice Meredith also made it to one of the main stages with the Flava crew – where, appropriately, they gave away some free Popohardwear t-shirts. But there’s really no such thing as a free t-shirt so anyone hoping to walk away with the prize had to be game enough to dance or sing for their tee.  We were blown away with the second lucky recipient who laid claim to a green tee saying it was rightly his because he was Irish before bursting into amazing song – you can hear a clip of it here.

We’re off to a massive start but we’re aiming for the biggest digital record of tees ever – so keep them coming!

Cheeky darkies

In September 2003 the phrase “cheeky darkie” resounded around the world when New Zealand’s own public radio broadcaster Paul Holmes repeatedly referred to then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as, not just a “darkie” but a “very cheeky” one.

“That Kofi Annan” Holmes said “has been a very cheeky darkie overnight. He’s been a very cheeky darkie. It’s all very well giving a darkie that secretary-general job but we’ll only take so much.”

Amid international condemnation, then Prime Minister, Helen Clark quickly distanced New Zealand from Holmes’ statements, nationally there were calls for him to be sacked, colleagues resigned in protest and sponsors withdrew support for Holmes’ show.

But on the streets of Auckland t-shirts appeared emblazoned with ‘cheeky darky’, ‘cheeky darkies’ and ‘cheekier darkies’. The Polynesian humour mill had started churning.

Of aristocratic birth, multi-lingual, well educated and holding the most influential international humanitarian post in the world Kofi Annan was reduced to the colour of his skin. While insulting in the extreme, unfortunately in the shared experiences of many Pacific Islanders, it was hardly surprising.

In the 1970s the socio-politically savvy children of Pacific Island migrants began to invert the racial slurs they had grown up with. ‘Coconut’, ‘bunga’ and ‘blacky’ were re-appropriated and their efficacy negated. In that era of militancy and protest ownership of the insults had an accompanying edge of defiance, flipping the intent was akin to flipping the bird.

T-shirt designs in the 90s and 00’ies are no less confrontational, but the changing orientations of their messages reflect an altered scene. Notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ began shifting, shared experiences created new alliances.

T-shirts like Island Athletics’ Afa Kasi (half-cast, essentially denoted ‘only half Samoan’), Base Productions’ Samoan Koko: It’s ‘O’ for Owesome (Wheel of Fortune was never the same after David Tua bought an ‘O’ in the mid-90s), and Popo Hardware’s Palangi (Polynesian word denoting one of European ancestry) reflect the contemporary New Zealand landscape, new shared social experiences cross old cultural boundaries.

Afa Kasi ('half-cast' formerly a derogatory term meaning ‘only half Samoan’)

Afa Kasi ('half-cast' formerly a derogatory term meaning ‘only half Samoan’)

Church donations... in the Tui ad formula familiar to all New Zealanders, a commentary on church donations; 'Tui' has also been altered to the Samoan word for 'punch' (Tu'i) and followed by 'for your eye' for Samoan language readers

Church donations... in the Tui ad formula familiar to all New Zealanders, a commentary on church donations; 'Tui' has also been altered to the Samoan word for 'punch' (Tu'i) and followed by 'for your eye' for Samoan language readers.

Base Productions’ Samoan Koko: It’s ‘O’ for Owesome. The Wheel of Fortune gave us one of the most popular sayings.

Base Productions’ Samoan Koko: It’s ‘O’ for Owesome. The Wheel of Fortune gave us one of the most popular sayings.

Popo Hardware’s Palangi (Polynesian word denoting one of European ancestry)

Popo Hardware’s Palangi (Polynesian word denoting one of European ancestry)

That’s not to say that racism can be erased with humour, instead that our post-colonial history, ethnic diversity and creation of a national identity affords more stimulating, affirming and productive possibilities than the cultural politics as played out by the Holmes’ of this place.

Holmes caused a furor again recently with an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald the weekend after Waitangi Day.

 If anyone can be bothered remembering any of it, it had some potentially good t-shirt one-liners eg. ‘It’s a Bullsh-t day’, ‘It is too awful and nasty and common’, ‘It’s no more New Zealand than Halloween’, ‘It’s all the Pakeha’s fault’.

Identi-tee - My T-shirt, My Story

T-shirt “Hall of Fame” Sneak Preview

So as we head to the final countdown I thought you might like a sneak preview of our Identi-Tee “Hall of Fame”. 

Take a sneak preview as the Identi-tee exhibition takes shape!

Take a sneak preview as the Identi-tee exhibition takes shape!

As I said in a previous blog this started out as a one T-shirt exhibition however deciding which T-shirt to show was a challenge.  You can read about the original T-shirt we had in mind for an exhibition about T-shirt culture in New Zealand here.

As we progressed with the planning for the exhibition it became clear that this was going to be a wonderful opportunity to showcase more from our collections and so the Hall of Fame was born.

Identi-tee Hall of Fame conceptual stage

Identi-tee Hall of Fame conceptual stage

Identi-tee Hall of Fame is born

The Hall of Fame is born

T-shirts come in all shapes and sizes.  A blank T-shirt is like a blank canvas. Put words and images on a Tee and it becomes part of your identity. It’s how you share a joke with mates, challenge the establishment, express your beliefs, push a brand or support a band.

These are some of our picks for the T-shirt Hall of Fame

A selection of the Hall of Fame t-shirts

A selection of the Hall of Fame t-shirts

What would you choose and why?   Let us know or upload your own and you never know we might be knocking on your door to ask to borrow it for our display! 

Join the project and share your T-shirts with the world at The more T-shirts and stories, the more we find out about us.

Identi-tee - My T-shirt, My Story

Lab work begins

archaeology lab

The field work may be over, but some of the most interesting aspects of this project are just beginning! The archaeology field school is part of a 3rd year course in Anthropology Field Methods in Archaeology‘ that teaches students how to conduct research from the field through to the lab, and on to a final report. Each of the 16 students in the course choose a topic they will work on for the semester. During the first class, students were presented with 19 different topics and ended up choosing a very interesting selection of study areas. These include:

Different gardening practices, analysis of faunal remains (shell and fish bone), wood charcoal analysis, raw material sourcing, study of the haangi stones, technological analysis of stone artefacts, taphonomic analysis of the archaeological record, analysis of spatial distribution of artefacts and features, the history of the occupation of Great Mercury Island/Ahuahu, a study of the previous archaeological research conducted on the island, and the geology and geomorphology of the island.

On Friday we began organizing the lab. Over the next few weeks students will wash, sort and begin analysis of archaeological materials collected during the field school.

We will keep you posted with our progress as we begin to piece together the prehistoric occupation of Ahuahu.

- Rebecca

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Final Days

The excavation area was rather crowded at times but everyone had a job to do as excavator, surveyor, label writer to include with samples, siever, or bucket carrier

The last few days on Ahuahu Great Mercury Island were hectic and the weather was not particularly obliging. We had intense heat, then rain and strong winds from the north west with our dune excavation was in its direct path. Many flakes and oven stones were found in the 12 m2 area which required the location to be captured using the total station so the coordinates could be transferred into the GIS system. Flakes of chert, obsidian and basalt were located, and the sand in each 1 m2 sieved to recover all the minute flake debris from making flake tools.

The wind and incoming tide caused a few anxious moments for the datum and use of total station but a sand barricade proved effective

As usual on the last day, the excavation took longer than expected and we were under pressure to finish the recording and photography and get the excavation squares ready for backfilling. The weather, and the quantity of flakes, prevented us from excavating the cultural layers in all squares so we sandbagged the edges of the unexcavated squares and covered them with a tarpaulin before the farm manager kindly helped us backfill with the tractor. By this stage everyone was exhausted and sand blasted. However that wasn’t the end of the work. Students worked long into the evening entering the samples into an Access database, and the surveyors were also working hard making sure the data was downloaded from the total station and correct. The rule is that all the data is entered before the fieldwork period ends.

Preparing the excavation area for backfilling so we can return at a later date and finish the work

The final day – Sunday – was sunny and calm. After house cleanup and packing, samples, luggage and students were delivered to the boat for return to Whitianga, and the remainder of us, with a large quantity of samples, personal luggage and electronic equipment caught the boat several hours later.

The fieldwork season was highly successful and everyone worked well together. The island is a beautiful place but we were too busy to enjoy the beaches in a relaxing way. Thanks to Peter and Pete Johnston of Ngati Hei for being with us and sharing some of Ngati Hei’s stories of the island. Thanks also to Michael Fay for hosting the crew.

Just some of the gear ready to leave the island

Although the fieldwork is over this is not the end of the project. Students on the field school will choose a topic broadly related to lithics, gardening or environment reconstruction and analyse material brought back to the Anthropology Department. This process will take all year and then the information can be collated to assist with writing the report which will describe methodology, natural and cultural layers, and interpretation, and will also include analysis, photographs, maps and plans.

- Louise

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Identi-Tee – My T-shirt, My Story

Onsite, off-site, online

Our Exhibition Developer Janneen calls Identi-Tee the little show that could.  Its like the beefy guy in the T-shirt ten times too small.  You know the ones, muscles bulging out everywhere and usually co-ordinated with some MC Hammer type track pants that seem to ride way too high in all the wrong places!   You wonder why they wore the T-shirt at all.

My T-shirt, My Story

Identi-Tee started out as a one T-shirt show and as of yesterday we are one T-shirt short of 28 starters for our T-shirt Hall of Fame and the show is busting out of its little gallery in more ways than one.  Its part of our plan to be “onsite, off-site, and online”.  Museums love that kind of marketing speak but all that really means is we have an exhibition onsite in the Tamaki Gallery, an interactive website where you get to show us your favorite Tees and you never know we might even hit you up to tell us about your T-shirt while we are are out and about over the summer. For starters we’ll be at Ngapuhi Festival in Kaikohe over Anniversary Weekend.  Come check us out and remember to wear your favorite Tee!

Identi-tee - My T-shirt, My Story

T-shirts in a museum

Yes please, we want your t-shirts!

Every T-shirt tells a story.  Auckland Museum would like to share yours!

Well we don’t actually want them, a photo will do.  Rather than continue to fill up our storerooms we thought we’d get clever and trial a new way of collecting.

Yep you got it an online collection, you can collect stuff without having to actually collect it and what better item to focus on than the ubiquitous t shirt.  Everyone’s got one right?   What’s your favorite one?  Do you wear it till death you do part, or is it so special that you don’t wear it at all?  What makes your t-shirt so special to you?

Let us know by uploading your pic and your story to our online collection and if everybody else likes it too you could win yourself a designer tee.

Identi-tee - My T-shirt, My Story