The skin and feathers of this muff once belonged to a little spotted kiwi.
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When Juliet Arnott came across a pile of red-painted timber labelled ‘Firewood’ in the Christchurch suburb of Mount Pleasant, she paused. The stack of wood was on land that had once belonged to a church. The church had been badly damaged in the second Canterbury earthquake, along with the homes of many of its parishioners. In fact, so many people had moved out of the suburb that it wasn’t feasible to hold services, even though the church was repairable. So the building was sold and torn down to make way for a private house. Thus the pile of rimu weatherboards. Arnott, an occupational therapist, had started a social enterprise, Rekindle, which aimed to make use of waste materials from the many residential demolitions taking place around Christchurch. Concerned about the loss of useful materials, especially native timber, Arnott set about showing how they could be repurposed. Foraged wood, such as the former gable ends of the Mount Pleasant Church, became tables and chairs. Today, Rekindle operates according to the same kaupapa, though there isn’t the same influx of waste wood that first sparked Arnott’s imagination. Now, her focus is on education. Rekindle runs workshops in Christchurch’s Arts Centre teaching people how to use repurposed or foraged materials. Arnott calls these “resourceful crafts”. Since then, Te Papa has acquired one of the red weatherboard chairs and a side table made of salvaged wood for its permanent collection: a record of a moment in time and a person who made the best of it.
Displaying animal skeletons in museums is just one of many reasons for preparing bones. Museums also maintain extensive collections of bones for the study of comparative anatomy. All vertebrate animals have skeletons based on the same plan, because they involved from a common ancestor. By comparing them side by side, researchers can study the process of evolution and the levels of relationship between species. Medical researchers can also gain insight into our own bodies by studying the anatomy of other animals. For this reason, far more bones are held in museum storage than are ever on display. One of the leading lights of comparative anatomy in New Zealand was Thomas Jeffrey Parker, who from 1880 until his early death in 1897, was a professor of biology at the University of Otago and curator of Otago Museum. Parker was a force of scientific enquiry and a masterful teacher who produced more than 40 scientific papers and numerous textbooks on biology. He was also an extraordinary preparator of animal remains. Many of his exquisite bone articulations are on display at Otago Museum, while a collection of painted skulls, with their individual bones artfully colour-coded, is still in use by university students a century after it was made. Among Parker’s many achievements was the development of a technique for preserving soft, biodegradable animal parts like cartilage and gut tissue using glycerine. The items he prepared in this way are still in a fine state, and provide a great resource for researchers. To this day, no one has managed to match Parker’s skill and prowess at using this technique.
When this orange roughy hatched, European navigators were still colouring in their map of the world.
It’s the Middle Ages. Genghis Khan presides over the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. Mansa Musa gives away enough gold on his trip to Mecca to cause an economic crisis in the Near East. Dante writes The Divine Comedy. The English and French kick off the Hundred Years’ War. And Polynesian explorers sail to all corners of the Pacific. At least one waka lands on Enderby Island, at Sandy Bay, and stays there. The explorers live on sea lions, seals, albatrosses, petrels, fish and mussels. They cook in hangi, stoking fires with rātā, and their dogs gnaw the bones. Archaeologist Atholl Anderson investigated these earth ovens in 2003, dating their remnants to either the 13th or 14th century—about the same time that New Zealand was settled. Traces remain of visits to the subantarctic Snares Islands, as well as settlements in the Kermadecs, far to the north of mainland New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands to the east. On Enderby, part of the Auckland Islands group, Polynesians stayed for at least one summer, perhaps more, then departed, leaving behind tools, fish hooks, scrapers and bones—including this fish hook, which was recovered from Sandy Bay and is now held at the Southland Museum. After they left, the Auckland Islands remained uninhabited for at least 400 years. There are no signs of human presence between these remains and the islands’ rediscovery by Abraham Bristow in 1806. While the earlier explorers may have paid only a summer’s visit, Enderby Island marks the southernmost Polynesian colony yet to have been identified.
William Colenso was a poor specimen of the clergy, but he found redemption in botany.
At the 1960 Olympic Games, the runners lining up for the 800-metre final all wore Adidas shoes—except one.
Cavers of yesteryear used carbide lamps for illumination—occasionally with explosive results.
Scientists believed they had found an ancient civilisation, but it was more like plastic forks.
Waikato’s eponymous brewery was rescued from the edge of financial ruin—twice. Then it burned down, and the chief brewer died.
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