Silver exhibition on show at MTG

Today our latest exhibition Silver: heirlooms from the collection is now open to view at MTG Hawke’s Bay. This exhibition made solely from items in the collection presents a wide array of silver objects.

Silver has been mined for centuries and turned into items that display your wealth or importance. As a malleable metal silver can be easily worked, however it’s too soft to use on its own and small amounts of other metals are added to harden the silver. In this combination silver can be used to create a vast array of shapes and designs from the simple to the very elaborate. One such item on display is an ornate epergne, used for holding flowers or fruit and set in the centre of the table, this would create an effect designed to impress visitors.

A common use of silver was in the creation of trophies, bowls, plates, ceremonial keys or trowels which were given out for various events or occasions and often supplied by a sponsoring business or individual. On display is a detailed trophy casket provided by local merchants, Neal and Close – won by the Napier Fire Brigade in 1886 and the Spit Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1887 and 1888.These would’ve been treasured items and regularly polished so they shone to best effect. With the advent of silver plating sometimes rigorous polishing meant the silver was polished away exposing the base metal underneath – which you can see with some of the trophies on display.

Silver was also commonly used for creating medals which were awarded for military service and more commonplace activities, such as winning an event at the Hawke’s Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Show or the New Zealand exhibition.

Following on from the theme of our Time for tea exhibition, silver was also a common item on the tea table for the wealthy and middle class in the form of tea caddies, teaspoons, jugs and sugar bowls. By the end of the 18th century matching silver tea services on a silver tray had become very popular. While at the dining table silver napkins, cutlery, candlesticks, serving spoons and more were a sign of the hosts wealth and standing in the community.

As a treasured item some kept their silver in the bank. During the 1931 earthquake and the destruction of the ASB bank, followed by the fires that ravaged the town, a number of silver items and other treasures were burnt and melted. Many of these silver pieces were never claimed and these sad blackened and twisted mementoes of a terrible time in Hawke’s Bays history can also be seen in this exhibition.

As fashions changed silver, the ever versatile material, was melted down and reformed into new items meeting current societal trends. During war or economic uncertainty it wasn’t uncommon for silver pieces to be converted to bullion bars or coinage.

With a huge range of glittering objects on display this exhibition creates a real feast for the eye. The team have worked hard to polish all the silver to best effect so come in and enjoy the opportunity to view these treasures from your collection.

  • Silver: heirlooms from the collection open today, Saturday 26 January. Free entry
  • Napier Hill Cemetery Tour with Social History Curator Gail Pope. Sunday 27 January. $15 Tickets available through Eventfinda or at MTG
  • Last chance to view Nyree Dawn Porter: From Local Stage to Global Stardom closing tomorrow, Sunday, 27 January. Free entry
  • Last chance to view Te Aniwaniwa Nui mural by Ariki Brightwell (in the main foyer) closing tomorrow, Sunday, 27 January. Free entry
  • School Holiday Programme – Animation & Virtual Reality, Learn how to create an animation! Please bring a USB Flash Drive with you so you can take your animation home to share with the family. Tuesday, 29 January, 10am-12pm (ages 7-12). Tickets $15 available through Eventfinda or at MTG
  • Measure & Draw: Architecture Plans and Drawings. See objects in our collection store related to architectural artistry including proposed designs which were never realised. Tuesday, 29 January 12-1pm. Please register through Eventfinda or at MTG to find out the location of this free programme. Spaces are limited.
  • School Holiday Programme – Upcycle in Plastic, make your own undersea creature and bird feeder to take home with you. Please bring 2 x recycled, clear (and clean) plastic fizzy bottles with you – no milk bottles. (ages 5 -12). Wednesday 30 January, 10am-12pm. Tickets $15 available through Eventfinda or at MTG
  • Don Pasquale. From the creative team who brought you 2018’s wild and wacky “The Marriage of Figaro” comes Wanderlust Opera’s lastest offering “Don Pasquale”. In this comic opera by bel canto master Donizetti, a miserly bachelor gets more than he bargained for when he enters into an arranged marriage. MTG Century Theatre, Wednesday, 30 January, 7.30pm. Tickets available through Ticketek and at MTG from one hour prior to the performance


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG
Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 26 January 2019


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