Picturing the plants: John Buchanan’s illustrations of New Zealand flora

With its dull marbled cover and tatty leather spine, the 32cm, 200 page volume known as ‘MS41 John Buchanan notebook’ has languished, wallflower-like, in the Auckland Museum’s manuscript collection for over a century.  Now its dance card is filling up, with outings this month to the Hocken Library in Dunedin for the exhibition Art in the Service of Science: Dunedin’s John Buchanan and a March 2013 showing in Auckland at the Gus Fisher Gallery planned.

This book shines a light into the corner of New Zealand’s science history and throws up the long shadow of the man who made it, botanist and Colonial Museum draughtsman, John Buchanan FLS (1819-1898). His sharp blue eyes noticed differences between the plants he had collected around Wellington in 1866 and the ‘official’ descriptions in Joseph Dalton Hooker’s newly published (but unillustrated) Handbook of New Zealand Flora, commissioned by the New Zealand Government.

The quality of Buchanan's illustrations shows drawing skills honed by years of designing floral patterns for printed calico in Scotland.

The quality of Buchanan's illustrations shows drawing skills honed by years of designing floral patterns for printed calico in Scotland.

Picking up a pencil and his tablets of watercolour, he started to sketch the dissimilarities he could see between the plant specimens in the Colonial Museum’s Wellington herbarium where he worked and the Handbook’s version of what the plant should look like.

A picture paints a thousand words, and his were drawing skills honed by years of designing floral patterns for printed calico in Scotland. This study of flowers led to a hunger for botanical knowledge satisfied by classes at the Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute taught by renowned botanist Roger Hennedy.

John Buchanan's illustration of Kohia, NZ passion fruit, Passiflora tetrandra from page nine of his notebook.

John Buchanan's illustration of Kohia, NZ passion fruit, Passiflora tetrandra from page nine of his notebook.

Penning notes as to where and when he collected the plants he depicts, he puzzles over the mismatches with Hooker’s descriptions.

The specimen of Pittosporum crassifolium is from a plant grown at Wellington, possibly at the Botanic Gardens where Buchanan oversaw the plantings. He writes: ‘It is difficult to make out what Hooker means by “bracts broadly ovate ciliate imbricate”.  There is no appearance of any bracts at all on the plant unless one or two floral leaves be considered so and they do not agree with the description.’

Buchanan's illustration and notes about Pittosporum crassifolium, page 115 of the notebook.

Buchanan's illustration and notes about Pittosporum crassifolium, page 115.

Elsewhere he delights in finding anomalies: the flowering rata Metrosideros florida ‘Petals distinctly yellow, differing from Hooker’s description of M.florida as pink.’

The flowering rata Metrosideros florida, page 25 of the notebook.

The flowering rata Metrosideros florida, page 25.

Hooker was working from dried specimens sent back to London by ship and had not seen all 935 flowering plants growing. Buchanan was constantly roaming New Zealand, collecting and observing colour in growing plants. When the specimen he is depicting has lost its gloss, he points this out.  With his stalk of kiekie, Freycinetia banksii, for example, he writes ‘the sienna tint on drawing is from decay’.

Buchanan was documenting the glorious variety of New Zealand flora from a time before rabbits, painstakingly illustrating what Hooker at Kew could only imagine. In the back of the book, (p.193) he moves on to depicting wood ear fungus found in Dr Hector’s garden in Petone in June 1885 which he bravely asserts should be called “Agaricus adhaerens” and annotates “N.Sp. [new species] J.B.”

Illustrations and notes about wood ear fungus, page 193 of Buchanan's notebook.

Illustrations and notes about wood ear fungus, page 193 of Buchanan's notebook.

Given that Buchanan spent most of his New Zealand time in Wellington or Dunedin, how did this treasure come to be found in Auckland?

Thomas Cheeseman (1845-1923), first curator of the Auckland Museum, might have known the answer. Buchanan visited Auckland in the 1880s as he neared retirement, promoting the creationist response to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Maybe Buchanan took a liking to the younger enthusiast, and gave him his precious botanical?  Was it Cheeseman who scrawled ‘J.Buchanan’s notes’ in pencil on the first page?

Illustrations and notes about Maire tawake, Syzygium maire (= Eugenia maire), page 5 of the notebook.

Illustrations and notes about Maire tawake, Syzygium maire (= Eugenia maire), page 5.

Buchanan’s corrections of Hooker, neatly defined drawings and attention to Maori names would have helped Cheeseman in preparing his own definitive Manual of New Zealand Flora which appeared in 1906.  Illustrations by Miss Matilda Smith of Kew followed in 1914. Buchanan was long dead, but Cheeseman uses the book’s introduction to acknowledge his indebtedness to his predecessor.

Fulsome praise for Buchanan’s botanical and artistic accomplishment culminates in Buchanan’s 1865 ‘Sketch of the Botany of Otago’ being acclaimed as ‘the first local Flora issued in the colony, and a work of considerable merit, evidencing much industrious research’. It was likely to have been admiration for its maker that ensured that Cheeseman kept the notebook for Auckland Museum’s manuscripts collection, forever preserving the painted evidence of Buchanan’s superior botanical knowledge and artistic skills.

Watch an interview where Linda Tyler discusses John Buchanan on Dunedin’s Channel 9.

Read a biography on John Buchanan at the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

View twenty-one specimens in the Museum’s herbarium collected by John Buchanan.

View Auckland Museum’s record detail on Hooker’s Manual of the New Zealand flora.

View Auckland Museum’s record detail on Cheeseman’s Manual of the New Zealand flora.

Exhibition

The exhibition Art in the Service of Science: Dunedin’s John Buchanan will be at the Hocken Library, Dunedin, from 22 November 2012 until 9 February 2013 and at Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, from 1 March – 22 April 2013.  A symposium convened in celebration of John Buchanan New Zealand Artist, Botanist and Explorer will take place at Salmond College, Dunedin on 29 and 30 November 2012.

The mystery of an island that isn’t there

Auckland Museum may have some clues as to how a non-existent Pacific island made its way onto navigational charts and even appears on Google Earth.

When Auckland Museum pictorial librarian Shaun Higgins read that a boat full of Australian scientists had recently sailed over the top of ‘Sandy island’ in the Coral Sea, he went through some of our old charts and maps looking for it.

Detail from the 1908 chart showing Sandy Island in the Coral Sea (click for bigger version)

Auckland Museum has a large collection of charts and maps of the Pacific, dating back as far as the 1700s. After a bit of searching Shaun found a 1908 admiralty chart which shows the island (and it appears to be almost as big as Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf).

One of the scientists who ‘undiscovered’ the island, Dr Maria Seton from the University of Sydney, told news reporters: “It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre. How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don’t know, but we plan to follow up and find out.”

According to our chart (visit our Flickr site to see the entire map) the island was discovered by the Velocity in 1876. But there is a generic note on the chart which warns: “Caution is necessary while navigating among the low lying islands of the Pacific Ocean. The general details have been collated from the voyages of various navigators extending over a long series of years. The relative position of many dangers may therefore not be exactly given.”

And while Sandy Island appears on many maps, it isn’t on all sea charts. How it managed to appear, disappear and reappear onto various maps and charts is a mystery of the sea. No doubt some out there will believe the island is still there, or has simply moved south for the summer.

It certainly isn’t the first case of maps showing islands that aren’t there. Have a look at the 1650 map of the Pacific (below), with its string of large islands extending from the tip of South America to a point not far from where Auckland ought to be.

Map of the Pacific from 1650

A twist in the (final) tale

This is the final blog in the story of Egon, a 24-year-old Jew who fled from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to seek refuge in New Zealand. At the heart of the story is Egon’s diary; his entries at times mechanical and rather dreary, but also humourous and peppered with shrewd observations.  Egon learns of the declaration of war en-route, and although he doesn’t write about his mother and sister, there is no doubt he would have been devastated.  Egon would never see his family again.

Eugene and Egon

On arrival in New Zealand, Egon appears optimistic about his new life. “I think I shall like it, as they say here.” And he does. In the years that followed, there was much to rejoice about: a wife, two daughters, a house and a job he enjoyed.  

For his remaining family, exposing Egon’s story to the world has had unexpected consequences. Strangers have supplied vital clues in the story, and family friends have made contact. John Burland, who blogs regularly from Mainz, was generous with his time, digging up some fascinating facts about the family and the champagne business.  Recently, he uncovered yet another twist in the tale.

“If I’m not very mistaken, I met Rainer Eschenbruch sometime in the 1980s when he hosted a winetasting of his Rongopai Vineyards wines at one of the top restaurants in Mainz.
And this is where it gets very strange – the restaurant relocated to a hotel in the Kaiserstrasse sometime later (and finally disappeared when the hotel was bought by a chain).
Kaiserstrasse 7. The 1924-25 address of Egon’s aunt Bertha.”

For some of the Schoenbergers,  the echoes from the past never truly abated.   Eugene waged his own war against the post-war German authorities in the hope of compensation. The mayor of Mainz reportedly wanted to return the sparkling wine company to the family but Eugene and his wife Edith were reluctant to return to live in Germany. The company was later purchased by Seagram and Company.  Eugene died in 1970, and Edith remarried four years later to a San Francisco physician. After her death in 1995, all her papers were gifted to The Bancroft Library in California.

For many years, Egon would send Red Cross parcels to a former girlfriend living in post-war Germany. The silver finally made it back to the family in New Zealand. After his death, his daughter Dr Michele Schoenberger-Orgad deposited documents from the family business with the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  There are sure to be more family secrets that will never come to light. 

The holocaust began in 1933, and it’s estimated that 11 million people were killed before the war ended in 1945. Six million of these were Jews, among them Doris and Johanna Schoenberger.  In Western society, such treatment of citizens now appears unthinkable.  And yet the Australian government has imprisoned thousands of asylum seekers in detention centres, which Amnesty International has described as being on par with a medium security prison. Still the refugees keep coming, risking their lives by making the treacherous sea journey in unsafe vessels.   Nearly 70 years ago, Egon made a similar journey, but with a very different outcome.

November 14, 2012

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Melanie Cooper

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Eclipse chasing with Longitude author Dava Sobel

Around 60,000 people travelled to Cairns this week to spend the small hours of this morning (our mid morning) looking skyward to catch a glimpse of … total darkness. Among those travellers was internationally acclaimed author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dava Sobel who will give a public talk at the museum next Friday, 23 November.
 
In New Zealand a cloudy sky meant there wasn’t a lot to see (and we were only ever set for around 85% darkness) but images of this morning’s eclipse coming in from Australia hint at the stunning beauty of the sun’s light blinking out behind the moon.
New Zealand's cloudy skies somewhat obscured the view of the eclipse

New Zealand's cloudy skies somewhat obscured the view of the eclipse

The beginnings of this morning's total solar eclipse over Australia, with relatively clear skies and the pick of the global vantage points in Cairns, Australia. Credit APTN

The beginnings of this morning's total solar eclipse over Australia, with relatively clear skies and the pick of the global vantage points in Cairns, Australia. Credit APTN

This NBC News footage also captures some of the magic that was evident for people watching the eclipse in Australia.

Despite the reduced visibility, visitors to the museum and staff cluster around the steps with special glasses to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

Museum-goers and staff catching a glimpse of the eclipse as darkness closes in

Museum-goers and staff catching a glimpse of the eclipse as darkness closes in

 

One of our museum team Marcus Boroughs captured the eclipse's progress on his iPhone using his protective glasses to shield the camera's 'eye' from the sun's rays

One of our museum team Marcus Boroughs captured the eclipse's progress on his iPhone using his protective glasses to shield the camera's 'eye' from the sun's rays

Dava admits freely admits to being an “eclipse chaser” – one of thousands of people around the world with a rampant fervour for the sight of our world fading to black in the midst of the astronomical phenomenon which sees the Earth, Sun and Moon fall into this neat alignment.

Ahead of her visit we asked her a few questions about her love of eclipses and her new book A More Perfect Heaven.

How many eclipses have you seen and where has your “eclipse chasing” taken you?
This eclipse in Cairns will be my eighth one. I’ve also been to Mexico, the Black Sea, the Galapagos Islands, Greece, Siberia, Easter Island and China to see eclipses. For me photos of solar eclipses are a little like the postcards you get in the gift shop after you’ve just seen the incredible paintings hanging in the gallery. It certainly can’t capture what you see or what you feel when you see the real thing.

Do you have any standout memories from one of those eclipses?
In Siberia in 2008 the weather was gloomy in the days leading up to the eclipse, and the astronomers and meteorologists all had their chins on the floor. But the morning of the event offered the hope of a clearing, and by the time the eclipse started the sky was perfectly clear, which made the spectacle even more enjoyable.

Why is this phenomenon of particular interest to you?
I find the eclipse the most beautiful, thrilling sight imaginable – like watching the universe open up and expose some secrets of its operation to view.

You are coming to view the total solar eclipse in Cairns. For people that haven’t witnessed a total solar eclipse before what would you tell them to watch for and how would you explain the significance of what they are seeing? Did eclipses play any part in the momentus discoveries of the likes of Copernicus, who you have written about in A More Perfect Heaven?
People fortunate enough to witness this eclipse might increase their enjoyment of it by reflecting for a moment on the great astronomers of the past, such as Copernicus, who never saw a total solar eclipse. He did, however, view several partials and lunar eclipses, which helped him determine the positions of stars and planets during the years he refined his theory.
It also deepens the enjoyment to think about the relative sizes and positions of the Sun and the Moon. Although the Moon is only 1/400 the size of the Sun, it is 400 times nearer to the Earth, so that the two bodies occupy the same apparent space in our sky. If the positions differed slightly, we would see neither the perfect match nor the dramatic eclipse phenomena such as Bailey’s beads, the diamond ring, the emergence of the Sun’s normally invisible corona during totality. From no other planet in the Solar System is it possible to observe these effects.

We’re looking forward to hearing more about your new book A More Perfect Heaven during your visit to New Zealand. What tempted you to cross into a different genre or mode of storytelling like the format of a play to explore the relationship between Copernicus and Joachim Rheticus?
From the time I first learned of the working friendship that developed between these two individuals, I thought their situation and conversations would make a wonderful play. This was more than thirty years ago, and I lacked the courage to write a play at that time. The recent years have been kind to me, and I found the courage.

November 13, 2012

Posted by:

Kirsten MacFarlane

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Right royal protocol relaxed

It’s not every day you meet royalty in a private location, and for the group of 20 Museum staff chosen to farewell the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, a quick lesson in royal protocol was in order.  Visitor services manager Vincent Lipanovich can quote the rule book verbatim, and lesson one is punctuality.   The royals are on a strict timetable for the Armistice Day Commemorations, and we are to assemble inside the Museum at 1215 hours sharp.

Vincent Lipanovich keeps proceedings on track

Royal etiquette has rules about who can speak first, where to look, what to call them, how you should stand and when you should sit.  It is a mysterious business to the uninitiated. Some dissenters argue it’s not necessary to follow tradition in an age where a young woman with ancestors who worked in the coal mines could become a princess.  At our royal briefing, Vincent informs us that royal protocol is a “lot more relaxed these days. The decision to curtsey or bow is totally up to you.” You are perfectly within your rights to follow the example of Australian Prime Minister and Wales-born Julia Gillard, who opted for a polite bow when meeting the Queen last year. 

Thankfully, if we get it wrong, the paparazzi won’t be there to capture any breaches of protocol. Not so for heads of state.  Compare the reaction to two famous incidents of breaches of protocol.  Michelle Obama raised eyebrows when she put her arm around the Queen during a 2009 UK visit.  The Queen reciprocated by slipping her arm around the first lady. Some 20 years earlier, Paul Keating was branded the “Lizard of OZ” for the supposedly heinous crime of putting his hand on the Queen’s back during an official tour of Australia.  We may have a private encounter, but embracing the Duchess would be straining credibility.

We wait in two rows, as you do, for the royals to appear.  Vincent gives us a final pep talk: “When speaking to a male member of the Royal Family, refer to him as ‘Your Royal Highness’ on first reference and ‘sir’ on all following references.  For the Duchess, it’s ‘Your Royal Highness’ and  ’Ma’am’.” The TRHs are doing the rounds in the Members Lounge; meeting veterans, and examining a display containing the personal diary of Sir Edmund Hillary, and the Highgrove Florilegium (one of only 175 published for the Prince’s Trust).  All at once, the security men descend, followed by the much-anticipated couple.  Sensibly, they split ranks with the Duchess swiftly making her way down one side and Prince Charles descending on our row. A quick curtsey, a sincere exchange about my role, a lament from the Prince about “never having time to linger in museums”, and my royal encounter is over.  

Karen Tribbe stands proud with her service medals

Graphic designer Karen Tribbe, a former captain in the New Zealand Army, falls into military mode with her perfectly executed curtsey. Decked out in her service medals, pearls and blue blazer, she chats with ease about her eight-year service record.  Meanwhile, exhibition developer Janneen Love is presenting the Duchess with, yikes, a pair of jandals.  “It’s in celebration of our Urbanlife project,” says Janneen.

The Duchess is delighted, and the pair talk Philip Treacy hats for a full 43 seconds.  Then it’s all over. Security guards bustle the royal pair out a side door to their waiting car.

Janneen Love presents Duchess with jandals

In medieval times, monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by Gods – and they demanded to be treated as gods. It was bow or be beheaded. How times have changed. During this tour Prince of Charles has so far been hugged by a sweaty athlete and shaken hands with dripping wet, near-naked folk. There’s no way Janneen Love will be banished from the colony for giving royalty a pair of jandals.

To bow, or not to bow is your choice

 

Armistice Day: Peace and death

From the front page of the New Zealand Herald November 9, 1918

Two days before peace fell on the battlefields of World War I the New Zealand papers were full of the imminent end of four years of stalemate and slaughter.

Germany was in revolution, the services were mutinying and the Allies were advancing everywhere. The good news flowing from the western front tempered some of the terrible news of the influenza epidemic, whose victims were filling up the mortuaries at home.

Two articles on the front page of the NZ Herald, 9 November 1918

But even as the Armistice brought quiet to the war-ravaged landscape, death did not instantly abate. Soldiers suffering from injuries sustained before the peace were still dying from their wounds in the weeks and days that followed.

Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, Pas-de-Calais, France

Second Lieutenant James Sloss was serving in the Royal Air Force when he was wounded in the final days of the war. He died as the Germans signed the terms of armistice. The 21-year-old’s body was interred at the Terlincthun British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Soldiers were also dying of influenza. Private Ernest Baker had left his job as a tram inspector to serve in the medical corps in June 1918. He was serving in Wellington when he contracted the virus and died on 11 November 1918 leaving behind a wife and two children, aged 10 and two.

Such was the rate of death from influenza that the New Zealand Herald reported in November 13, 1918 that families were finding it difficult to make arrangements for burial “owing to the unprecedented pressure placed upon undertakers”.

Inglewood War Memorial

In order to facilitate the work of disposing of the bodies now lying  unburied two special trains are to be run today to Waikumete [cemetery], and this will have the effect of releasing hearses for funerals to cemeteries nearer the city.”

For those who had lost loved ones in the war there was rarely even a body to bury or headstone to visit. In response, communities raised funds to build memorials to the war dead, and these began to spring up in towns and suburbs across the country.

This Sunday marks the 94th anniversary of the end of hostilities in World War I.

Auckland Museum’s Armistice Day service begins at 11am on the Court of Honour to celebrate the peace and remember the dead.

Egon’s story: the librarian

This blog is part 23 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.   

Egon's diary 24 September 1939. Click to read full version.

After weeks at sea Egon arrives in New Zealand. During the voyage war has broken out in Europe. His uncertainty as to how he, a German born Jew, will be recieved in his new country gives way to hope that he has a good future in New Zealand. ”I think I shall like it,” he writes.  

For this, the penultimate blog post in Egon’s story we are publishing an email from Rainer Escenbreuch, one of Egon’s colleagues at the Ruakura Research Centre. Following his settling in Hamtilton Egon’s great mind and education found a purpose as the librarian at Ruakura.  Rainer Escenbreuch’s email shows something of Egon’s generous spirit, his quick mind, his passions and the influence he left in Hamilton and the people who knew him. 

Ruakura Research Centre, where Egon worked as the centre's librarian.

When I came to Ruakura in 1974 to take up a position in wine research I was immediately introduced to Egon, the librarian of the Ruakura library. Very quickly I understood what type of person he was, a German Jew who had had the unbelievable luck to have escaped the Nazi Pogrom, when at the same time his mother and sister vanished in Hitler’s killing machines.  

The first moment I was anxious and hesitant not ever having met a Holocaust survivor, me a young German of the post-Nazi generation. In my time in South Africa I had experienced outright hostility from Jews, even later here in New Zealand. No, Egon was nothing of the sort!  

And this was where our friendship started.  

Egon ran the library of Ruakura extremely efficiently, was very helpful and generous, and always went out of his way to obtain any scientific information we scientists required.  

Very soon we “confessed” our love for wine to each other and Egon became part of our Friday afternoon “drinkies”  – of the wine research unit of Ruakura. He enthusiastically participated in several series of wine education courses at the Waikato University, lecturing about Champagne making.  

The Schoenberger sparkling wine factory in Mainz, Germany before the war. Egon and Rainer had plans to create a winery near Hamilton.

Both our families became friends, my very young family, he the father figure. We often shared the car, going to work, shared the lawn mower. We went to concerts together, simply enjoyed each others’ company. He made our entrance into New Zealand so much easier.  

I remember when for the first time after his escape from Germany he went back to see his birthplace. His wife told me that it took him several days to find the courage to cross from the Netherlands into Germany, trembling, upset, disturbed  – he did it!  

Egon was a “professional” stamp collector. He often showed me his latest additions. He also collected rare correspondence between Germany and some Pacific Islands.  

All the time both of us were “puzzling” about the possibility of setting up a wine business together. After several attempts Egon bought some land outside Hamilton and we began planting shelterbelts,  looked for suitable grape varieties to plant – an exciting project, when suddenly , totally unexpected, he died, a misdiagnose of blood transfusion after a hip operation.  

His sudden death disturbed me for a long time. And thirty years later I still miss him.  

- Rainer Eschenbruch,   Hamilton 2012

November 6, 2012

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

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Armistice Day

Ninety four years ago the New Zealand Division on the western front were preparing for their last action of World War I. On November  4, 1918 they successfully scaled the walls of the ancient fortress town of Le Quesnoy and fought hand to hand with the German soldiers, who then turned and fled.     

A week later the war ended. The Armistice was signed at 11am on the 11th of November 1918. A war started by the aristocracies and elites of Europe had seen the slaughter of millions, including more than 18,000 New Zealanders.     

For the troops on the frontline the cessation of war was greeted with quiet solemnity. For the civilians at home it was a cause for an outpouring of emotion.     

     

But in Auckland and Wellington the celebrations were muted as the cities were in the deadly grip of an influenza pandemic that was killing at a greater rate than occurred on the bare hills of Gallipoli. In two months influenza had killed almost half as many New Zealanders as the whole of the First World War.     

The epidemic was at its height just as the Armistice was declared. In Auckland the health authorities postponed celebrations to avoid its spread.     

The citizens in Christchurch however ‘went wild with excitement’ , the people of Nelson celebrated ‘with the utmost enthusiasm’ while business ceased entirely in Invercargill as the southerners thronged the streets.     

This year’s commemorations at Auckland War Memorial Museum falls on Remembrance Sunday and will be the biggest since yearly commemorations were reinstated at the turn of the century. As many as 3000 people are expected to gather on the Court of Honour.     

Like Anzac Day, Armistice Day has been drawing ever bigger crowds year on year, and the presence of royalty is expected to boost numbers.     

The Auckland War Memorial Museum was built to commemorate the sacrifice of those from the Auckland Province who died in what was then called the Great War. On numerous occasions the Court of Honour has been filled with returned soldiers, relatives of those killed, dignitaries and members of the public who gathered to remember. At this year’s commemorations there will be speeches from the Prime Minister John Key and the Mayor of Auckland Len Brown. Commemoration begins at 11am on the Court of Honour.     

Crowds on the Court of Honour for the opening of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Cenotaph in 1929

 

Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, who arrive in New Zealand on Saturday for a tour to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, will be attending the event and meeting veterans.       

Prince Charles visits the Museum in 2005

Prince Charles visits the Museum in 2005

 

Like Anzac Day, Armistice Day has been drawing ever bigger crowds year on year, and the presence of royalty is expected to boost numbers.    

The Auckland War Memorial Museum was built to commemorate the sacrifice of those from the Auckland Province who died in what was then called the Great War. On numerous occasions the Court of Honour has been filled with returned soldiers, relatives of those killed, dignitaries and members of the public who gathered to remember. At this year’s commemorations there will be speeches from the Prime Minister John Key and the Mayor of Auckland Len Brown. Commemoration begins at 11am on the Court of Honour.     

A service of remembrance is held in front of the Cenotaph

A service of remembrance is held in front of the Cenotaph

 

      

    

A Massive museum experience

Massive Theatre Company’s South and Central ensembles are part of Auckland Museum’s Urbanlife project which aims to give youth a platform to express their views on the city they live in. The issue the Massive group is looking at is economic wellbeing – an issue that confronts a lot of people working in the creative arts. This is their account of the Urbanlife process which they began in April 2012.

At the start of the process we spent hours looking at the museum collections and used photos from the museum’s pictorial collections to spark inspiration, including the work of two female photographers Margaret Matilda White and Una Garlick.

 

Margaret Matilda White's image - Nurses with Mr Hodson smoking in the garden at Auckland Private Hospital 1890s

Margaret Matilda White's image - Nurses with Mr Hodson smoking in the garden at Auckland Private Hospital 1890s

Margaret Matilda White's image - Three nurses on bicycles at the Auckland Private Hospital, 1890s

Margaret Matilda White's image - Three nurses on bicycles at the Auckland Private Hospital, 1890s

Looking at these images and talking about these female photographers lead us to think about the sort of expectations that were placed on women at the time – the fact they were expected to give up their passions like photography to settle down and look after their families.

Una Garlick's image - Una Garlick's image Rangitoto from Mission Bay. Large pine trees on the beach at Mission Bay, with man in hat walking past park bench. Panorama of Rangitoto in background.

Una Garlick's image - Una Garlick's image Rangitoto from Mission Bay. Large pine trees on the beach at Mission Bay, with man in hat walking past park bench. Panorama of Rangitoto in background.

We also took inspiration from important figures of history in the museum like Sir Ed Hillary. We thought about his struggles and used those as inspiration to talk about the struggles in our own lives and the lives of our family to do with our economic wellbeing and the fight to meet our needs and wants.

Bula performs his piece inspired by Sir Ed's story during Massive Company's Urbanlife performance at Mangere Arts Centre

Bula performs his piece inspired by Sir Ed's story during Massive Company's Urbanlife performance at Mangere Arts Centre

As we left one of the early workshop sessions at the museum Bethany Edmunds who heads up the Urbanlife project said: “Stories exist here at the museum, it’s just a matter of unlocking them and letting them live and come alive.” It’s a very potent statement and a great overall idea. The museum is the natural home of inspiration and stories and that’s a great thing to introduce young theatre groups to as they learn about storytelling and finding their voice.

Massive Central during a research visit to Auckland Museum

Massive Central during a research visit to Auckland MuseumExhibition Developer Janneen Love sharing the stories and history of Auckland Museum's collections with Massive Central

Massive South taking inspiration from Auckland Museum's WWI Sanctuary - a memorial to the lives lost and the sacrifices of war

Massive South taking inspiration from Auckland Museum's WWI Sanctuary - a memorial to the lives lost and the sacrifices of warWWI Sanctuary

On leaving one of those sessions we all talked about how we were feeling and what ideas the visit had sparked – some of the words we used were: aware, inspired, overwhelmed, full, different ideas about how to tell my story, women in a man’s world, Maori spirituality, passion, looking forward, new feeling about how important the Museum is, emotion and detail in art and photography, openness to growing, branches going off in different directions, excited to jam the stories and start playing, learnt so much, sense of knowledge and taking advantage of that, history, energy behind the objects, intrigued by the war section and women in the war, connection to non-human objects and stories, 1000 ideas.

Shaun (who guided us through the pictorial collection) and Janneen (exhibition developer) were really amazing with sharing their knowledge and skills. Janneen had so many stories to tell everyone about particular areas, people and exhibits and she really made the museum come alive. In my group I know both the library and then going around the museum was so stimulating for everyone.

We also spent time exploring the museum’s galleries and seeing which spaces resonate with the stories we’re trying to tell through our theatre pieces.

Exploring the museum's galleries and spaces ahead of the live performance

Exploring the museum's galleries and spaces ahead of the live performance

Rehearsing ahead of the Massive performances in the museum

Rehearsing ahead of the Massive performances in the museum

It was incredible going from flooking through the collections, galleries and spaces to drawing together the ideas and creating our own stories and transforming that into our devised theatre pieces.

The live performances in the museum and Mangere Arts Centre were a buzz – seeing people react to what we had created and the stories we were telling was a great feeling.

Massive South's performance at the Mangere Arts Centre

Massive South's performance at the Mangere Arts Centre

It’s great to think our stories are now being told inside Auckland Museum. We’re coming back to give more live performances in November (Sunday 18 November – Devised Theatre with Massive Company at 11AM, 1PM, 3PM – meet in the Grand Foyer) and then we will have come full circle.

Navigating Spaces – tapa inspired poetry

Kia ora, Talofa lava, Bula Vinaka, Malo e Lelei and many other Pacific greetings, my name is Arizona Leger and I am one of the many youth taking part in the Urbanlife project. Over the last few months I have been involved in the Culture stream – finding a way to express our voice on cultural issues in Tamaki Makaurau, our city of sails. We chose to voice our opinions through Spoken Word under the guidance and wisdom of our mentor Grace Taylor.

Beginning of our journey

We started off with a workshop which saw four of us attend the HOME AKL exhibition out at Auckland Art Gallery (which is a must see!) and then off to the museum to find ourselves head high in the archives, the stories of our ancestors began to retell themselves from day one.

Exploring the HOME AKL exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery

The HOME AKL exhibition was a real eye opener towards the various styles our Polynesian artists portray what they saw Auckland to be. It helped get our creative juices flowing in terms of how we could voice our opinions by giving them originality and a trademark that allowed us to claim our poems as our own.

Searching for inspiration through the Auckland Museum archives

The collections at the museum helped us to consider the content of what we were going to write. We sat there inspired by each art piece to help retell the story of their culture.

Working alongside Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh

Working with Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh then helped us to sift through our ideas from both HOME AKL and the Museum Collections and craft them into a written performance piece. With all this done in a day it stood as a very beneficial stepping stone, giving us confidence to go away and work on pieces by ourselves created through the content we had been given and the skills we had been taught.

Observing people performing their crafted piece

The completion of the workshop then saw us begin our weekly writing workshops where our collective would meet up at Youthline Manukau to begin drafting our piece. These workshops were very productive and the pieces that were coming together continued to drop jaws and water eyes every week. We were visited again by Dr Marsh and later down the line by Luka Lesson. Selinas second visit saw us learning to get messages across without having to say it word for word, we were introduced to the art of Metaphors.

Luka Lesson Australian slam poetry champ

Luka Lesson acted as our performance coach, teaching us various ways to strengthen our performance through dynamics of speed, tone and emotion. Both guests were valuable contribution towards the final pieces we now have produced.

Grace Taylor- The amazing mentor who lead the journey

With Grace there to provide great ideas and advice was crucial towards making our stream successful and she continued to encourage us to better our pieces in all aspects possible. By the final week, Navigating Spaces had nine finished pieces ready to be filmed and presented for the Urbanlife exhibition.

Inspired by the story of our ancestors through tapa

We spent one session under the lights working alongside Peter Lee, our fantastic cameraman, in attempt to produce a piece that would represent our months’ worth of hard work. The filming process came across as daunting to some but the feeling that our message was finally going to be heard by the people of Auckland overwhelmed that fear by far.

Performing our final pieces (some bravely performed two!) for the community at Youthline Manukau, we are Navigating Spaces. The vibe gathered from the audience was very rewarding and the feedback inspired us to want to continue to write and fight for our message to be heard.

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The crew enjoying the community showcase

“As we embark upon this journey, we know we are not alone.
We are Navigating Spaces, shining the light on what we call home.”

Arizona Leger