The weird and wonderful world of Whare Kahurangi

05 April 2019

What does a dog-skin cloak, a meteorite, a missing face towel possibly belonging to King Edward VII, the oldest picture of New Plymouth and a Transformer all have in common? 

They are just some of the many weird and wonderful objects that are part of a major new exhibition at NPDC’s Puke Ariki looking back on a century of collections and collecting.

Opening on 6 April in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, Whare Kahurangi: 100 Years of Collecting not only features objects from the Museum’s storerooms but also from private collectors from around Taranaki

Puke Ariki Acting Director Colleen Mullin says the exhibition has been a century in the making. “NPDC’s Puke Ariki is continuing what the Taranaki Museum started when it opened in 1919 – we’re combining the historical with the high-tech, the entertaining with the educational, and we look to forever preserve the stories of the past and present for the visitors of the future.”
Whare Kahurangi means house of treasured possessions and Curator Chanelle Carrick says the exhibition celebrates everyone who has contributed to the museum over the past century, from hundreds of generous donors to visitors who come from all over the world.

“The exhibition explores the diverse history of our region and we hope that it will inspire people to keep recording and sharing their stories for future generations,” says Chanelle. “Puke Ariki is such a unique place and we hope this exhibition will instil a sense of pride in what our museum and libraries are today.”

The exhibition includes interactive experiences from putting yourself in the shoes of a curator and coming up with a fake news story, placing your own treasured possession into the Cabinet of Curiosities, to voting on an ethical dilemma - should the museum open the sealed pages of a letter book dated 1841?

Puke Ariki issued a call last year for people to come forward with objects for Whare Kahurangi and the response was fantastic with a number of items on-loan for the exhibition. 

Whare Kahurangi fast facts:

  • The exhibition runs in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery until 6 October.
  • The Taranaki Museum first opened its doors on 28 August 1919 with the foundation gift of Māori taonga by William Henry Skinner.
  • Whare Kahurangi features a number of items from the Skinner Collection.
  • The oldest food item is a jar of preserved plums from 1900.
  • As well as the dog-skin cloak, there’s a rat-skin cape made by possum trapper Mike Murphy in the 1930s.
  • Vintage computers give visitors the chance to programme a ZX Spectrum from the 1980s.
  • The exhibition includes oral histories, music clips and interviews.
  • Whare Kahurangi was curated in-house and many of Puke Ariki’s staff have contributed to the exhibition. 

Puke Ariki fast facts:

  • Puke Ariki is owned and managed by NPDC.
  • It is the world’s first purpose-built, fully integrated museum, library and visitor information centre.
  • It opened 15 June 2003.
  • The total number of visitors to Puke Ariki and district libraries in the 2017/18 year was 801,703.
  • In that same period, Puke Ariki and community libraries issued 779,908 items.
  • Puke Ariki has three long-term galleries (Takapou Whāriki, Taranaki Naturally and the Gallery of Taranaki Life) and components of these get changed out regularly.
  • The temporary exhibition space shows touring exhibitions that are either curated in-house or brought in from other museums.
Rat skin cape (1930-40). Collection of Puke Ariki (A83.576).