Summer season Newsroom
A postcard, a fork, and a cranium and crossbones emblem – mundane objects construct an absorbing tapestry of life at sea within the early days of colonial New Zealand
In the future in 2021, whereas Auckland Maritime Museum collections specialist Nick Keenleyside was cataloguing a part of the museum’s monumental inventory of things, he was shocked to discover a selfmade postcard from the Falkland Islands with an illustration of a black-crowned evening heron.
By itself, it is hardly stunning – a chunk of stationery utilized in correspondence, a part of the hundreds of items of historic ephemera that makes up the museum’s shrine to New Zealand’s shut historic relationship to the oceans.
However what made this totally different was one thing no member of the museum’s curatorial employees would count on to occur – Keenleyside drew the heron himself, as a young person on the Falkland Islands over 40 years in the past.
The postcard discovered its means into a store someplace on the rocky islands off the coast of South America, the place it was picked up and despatched as a Christmas card to ex-British Service provider Navy sailor Gerry Clark, who was by then operating an orchard in Kerikeri and constructing his personal yacht.
Clark was a eager seafarer and ornithologist, identified for his seabird analysis within the icy sub-antarctic islands that type the southern reaches of New Zealand’s maritime territory and circumnavigating Antarctica in his self-built yacht Totorore.
Clark was misplaced at sea in 1999 someplace off the coast of Antipodes Island, abandoning an amassed assortment of ephemera and artefacts that his household donated to the museum some 20 years later.
It was then that Keenleyside started going via the gathering, solely to search out his personal work staring again at him after most of a lifetime.
Exhibitions curator Jacqui Knowles says unusual twists of destiny like which might be discovered all through the brand new exhibition, which is partly in place to rejoice 30 years of the museum appearing as a steward for the historical past of New Zealand’s relationship with the ocean.
“What are the percentages of that taking place? It was his desk this ended up on as effectively,” Knowles says.
It’s simply one of many many coincidences and unlikely connections that type the premise of the museum’s latest exhibition. Captains, Collectors, Pals & Adventurers opened in early December, the brainchild of museum employees who seen the myriad of sudden associations between artefacts, tales and characters within the museum’s assortment.
Museum director Vincent Lipanovich calls the ocean an ideal connector of individuals and tales – and for New Zealand, the place the geographical ubiquity of the ocean and the nautical isolation of those islands has positioned boats and seafaring on the forefront of our nationwide character, it’s doubly true.
However based on Knowles, with the ability to hyperlink up all the tales and present the general public the huge spiderweb of our nautical historical past hasn’t at all times been a doable feat.
Digitisation of the archives has allowed curatorial employees to extra simply determine these hyperlinks and fill out the tapestry of maritime historical past.
Funding from the Lotteries Fee over the past two years has allowed the collections staff to start digitising gadgets on the museum and its off-site storage facility in Avondale.
Up to now, round 14,000 totally different gadgets have been photographed, scanned and uploaded to an internet database to broaden entry to the general public.
“A giant a part of with the ability to hyperlink these tales got here from the digitisation,” Knowles stated. “For years we’ve had a number of stuff in our database simply sitting there. You recognize that they’re there, however typically the outline could be fairly temporary. The best way that issues are saved to make them secure they’re usually in bins…to quote it, it’s important to spend about 5 minutes unwrapping it.”
Digitisation has additionally allowed nearer inspection of sailors’ outdated picture albums: Knowles factors to a photograph of eager crusing household the Shakespeares, with the method permitting the staff to note the small cranium and crossbones emblems on a few of their hats.
“That gave us a clue that it was linked to a ship that Robert Shakespeare constructed for his household named Pirate,” she says. “It was little issues like that – a chunk of the puzzle.”
One other determine within the picture stored turning up time and again.
That was Captain John Peter Bollans – commander of the SS Hinemoa, a government-operated steamer that ran the size of the nation and farther from 1876. The Hinemoa delivered provides to island communities, serviced lighthouses and ferried authorities dignitaries.
Knowles says discovering out extra about Bollons’ adventures was a private spotlight for her.
“Bollons arrived in Bluff as a young person and was taken in by the seafarer, Tohi Te Marama, after the ship he was crewing on wrecked,” she says. “He labored his means as much as the function of Captain and was employed on authorities steamers that serviced lighthouses round Aotearoa and patrolled the Subantarctic Islands for castaways.”
Bollons himself was a eager collector, and when he died in 1929, his haul ultimately made its means into Te Papa.
His life was later fictionalised in memoriam by Bernard Fergusson, the final British-born governor-general of New Zealand, within the 1972 novel Captain John Niven.
The gathering reveals the intricate backstories that may be hidden in comparatively mundane objects.
A fork in a glass field tells the story of a person named Henry Swan, a would-be adventurer who lived alone aboard a yacht moored in Henderson Creek for greater than twenty years.
His spouse Edith remained on dry land at dwelling in Devonport, and visited weekly by travelling to town by steam ferry after which on to Henderson by rail.
Journalist Jack Leigh gifted the fork – used aboard Swan’s yacht, the Awatea – to the museum after a collection of articles protecting Swan’s unusual story within the Nineties.
Swan grew to become the central determine of an city delusion a couple of man who deliberate to journey all over the world on his yacht, however as a substitute hid it up among the many mangroves and camped out for a few many years.
It’s disputed whether or not Swan ever actually meant to take his yacht all over the world. Nevertheless it’s indeniable that his hermitry has earned him a spot among the many pantheon of unusual tales and characters that join New Zealanders to the ocean.