Mystery Solved!

Thanks to those who attempted to answer the mystery of the blue stones.

‘John the Scientist’ from GNS has confirmed what some already suspected – they are opals.  As they do not occur naturally in New Zealand they are most likely to have originated from Australia.









We also asked ‘John the Scientist’ about a clear-orange rock we have in the collection and it turns out that it is Agate.  Possibly from the north of New Zealand.


Wanted! A Mineral Expert…

Do you know anything about minerals?

Can you identify these cute light-blue crystals for us?  They are small – the largest measures 2.5cm long and 1.5cm wide.

We were installing a new exhibition last week and found these on a shelf without a label.  If you know what they are, what they might be used for and where they might have originated from we would love to hear from you!

If you want to see the real thing, pop in and we would be happy to show them to you.



Dinah Leaves School

The museum was recently contacted by a book collector in Napier who found the book “Dinah Leaves School” by Marjory Royce at a second hand book store.  He contacted the museum offering us the book as it was a school prize, presented to Edna Carter of Standard 5 Reikorangi School in 1918.

We now have the book in our collection and as well as being a valuable addition due to its local provenance, it is a quaint example of a girls’ book of that era.  The chapter headings give an idea of the story: “Chapter III She Is So Unpractical!”; “Chapter X She Watches A Love Affair”; “Chapter XII She Becomes Churchy”; “Chapter XV She Makes A Rice Pudding”; “Chapter XVI She Plunges Into Domesticity”; Chapter XVII She Gains Common Sense” and finally “Chapter XVIII She Grows Up”.

It was no doubt considered highly appropriate for young ladies at the time!

The Ultimate ANZAC Sacrifice

This WWI memorial death plaque, or as it was commonly called ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, acknowledges the sacrifice made by a soldier killed during the Great War. Unlike other awards which represented bravery and honour, this one represents loss.

It features a standing figure of Britannia, holding a trident and wreath, surrounded by dolphins, a lion at her feet, with the inscription around the edge: HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR.  There is also an oblong panel below the wreath, where the name of the individual is recorded, being cast into each medallion, rather than engraved afterwards.  There is no rank with the name, to signify equality of sacrifice.

This medallion was sent to the family of Albert Brown who was killed in 1917.  The Brown family ran a large farm in Waikanae and small rural communities in the young developing nation of New Zealand could ill afford to lose such members of their workforce.

The medallions were sent ‘from the King’ to the relatives of the soldier, and over one million were produced. Some families did not appreciate the gesture as it resembled a coin –  their loved one’s life was worth considerably more than ‘a penny’.

An Awesome Archive…

The current sorting of archives at the museum is turning up some interesting items.  One is a letter from January 1886 written in Maori by Wereta Pineaha.  We have had it translated and it says:

Motuiti January 26 1886

I, Wereta Pineaha agree to give this horse for the iwi.  Raha is not the person to take the horse, the horse is for the iwi.

Wereta Pineaha

Motuiti is near Foxton and the only information we have with regards to Wereta Pineaha was his election to the Maori Council in Otaki in March 1901.

If you have any further information about Wineata and would like to add it to our database please contact us.

An exhibit with links to Bechuanaland Protectorate!

I don’t imagine too many of our readers know where this was! The Bechuanaland Protectorate was established on 31 March 1885, by the United Kingdom in Southern Africa. It became the Republic of Botswana on 30 September 1966.

The museum radio collection includes a Marconi CR100 radio receiver which was purchased and used in Botswana for many years before it was bought back to New Zealand by its owner. It was originally owned by the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police and was used used by a senior officer on his travels around remote parts of the country.

The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd was then based in Chelmsford, UK. According to the manual, there are a number of variants to this venerable old set. The initial prototype was designated CR100. This was followed by variants designated CR100/1 through CR100/8. These specialised receivers were excellent performers considering the state of technology in the late 1930’s to 1940’s. We don’t know if our example is still serviceable, but armed with a copy of the excellent technical handbook we intend to find out!

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have this item in the museum together with a little of its history. If you are aware of museum pieces that have a history please contact us. You may be able to help us “fill in the gaps” and thereby make the museum exhibits that much more interesting.

The Needle Telegraph – Precursor to the Cellphone

One of the more fascinating items in the museum is The Needle Telegraph. You may well ask what is the connection between this and the cellphone?

The growth of the railways from 1825 onwards brought with it a need for a new form of communications that could work over large distances and in any weather. Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke were two Englishmen who on 25th July 1837 demonstrated a system for sending messages using electricity. A set of magnetic needles could be deflected by an electric current such that the needles would point to a particular letter on a grid. The demonstration in the video below shows how a 4 needle telegraph – a slightly later model of the July 1837 original – operates and how letters could be communicated. The needle telegraph started a telecommunications revolution based on electrical communication.




Find out more by viewing this You Tube video by Professor Nigel Linge, University of Salford, UK. Our museums example is a “Single Needle Telegraph” and contains the complete English alphabet.