Marvellous machines and feats of endurance – the story of Sir Douglas Maclean’s bicycle

Over the past fortnight I’ve had the pleasure of piecing together the story of Sir Douglas Maclean’s bicycle in preparation for its display – from today – at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Maclean's bicycle, held by Chad Heays, Design Technician, MTG

Maclean’s bicycle, held by Chad Heays, Design Technician, MTG Ariel pattern bicycle, late 1871 Designed and manufactured by Starley & Co, Coventry, England Steel, wood Gifted by Lady Maclean collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, R85/2

Maclean’s bicycle has been in the collections of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust for many years, but we’ve known very little about her. Now, with the assistance of a number of experts around the world we have discovered that she is one of the earliest Ariel model bicycles, invented by James Starley, and manufactured in late 1871 by Starley & Co, Coventry, England.

In about 1870, Starley, known as the father of the British bicycle industry, began producing bicycles based on the French velocipede, or ‘boneshaker’, but with front wheels of increasing size to enable higher speeds.

Starley’s innovative designs made the new style of bicycle a simpler, lighter and more comfortable ride than the older-style velocipedes. The larger front wheel allowed the rider to travel faster. Cyclists would buy a bicycle sized to the length of their leg, the taller you were – the bigger the wheel you could ride. The high bicycle ruled the road from the 1870s to the late 1880s, falling into obsolescence, in their turn, with the introduction of the safety bicycle in the late 1880s.

While today, these machines are frequently referred to as ‘penny-farthings’ (referencing the large penny, and small farthing coins, as viewed from the side), the term is something of a misnomer. They were referred to as bicycles at the time, and from the late 1880s, with the emergence of the new safety bicycles, were called ‘ordinary’ bicycles’ to differentiate them from the new design.

Photographie Disderi Delié Succ collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 12882

Portrait of Douglas Maclean Photographie Disderi Delié Succ
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 12882

As part of our research into the bicycle we’ve also rediscovered some of Douglas’ adventures with this remarkable machine in the very early days of New Zealand cycling.

Sir Robert Donald Douglas Maclean (b. 1852, d. 1929) was the owner of the Maraekakaho Estate, inherited from his father Sir Donald McLean KCMG in 1877. Douglas represented the Napier electorate as an independent Conservative member of parliament from 1896 to 1899, but, as one of the largest land holders in Hawke’s Bay, focused most of his energy on pastoral pursuits, particularly stock-farming and sheep-breeding. He was also the first President of the Napier Society of Arts and Crafts in 1924, and was actively involved in promoting arts in the region.

Douglas spent most of his early years in Napier, but went to England for his schooling in 1865, returning to New Zealand in 1870. He worked in Wellington for the law firm of Hart and Buckley through the 1870s. An accomplished sportsman, he was a prominent local cyclist (winning the first two cycle races ever held in Wellington) and an early rugby player.

In February 1876 Douglas rode this bicycle from Wellington to Napier, a journey of six days on rough roads, which included the arduous climb over the Rimutaka Range, slow riding through Forty Mile Bush on muddy tracks cut-up by drays, and the fording of many rivers and streams. He ran the final 40 miles as he came into Napier in one day, with a strong head wind against him. The newspaper’s noted that on his arrival, “he suffered a little from exhaustion”. (Auckland Evening Star, 11.2.1876, Wellington Evening Post, 8.2.1876)

Douglas Maclean and his son Algernon, outside the Maclean residence, Napier Terrace, c1900 collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, M2004/19

Douglas Maclean and his son Algernon, outside the Maclean residence, Napier Terrace, c1900
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, M2004/19

Maclean’s bicycle is in largely original condition, though it is thought that the saddle spring was at some point replaced with a slightly later, 1873 design. The wheel rims have also likely been replaced.

Among its many innovations in design, the Ariel featured Starley’s new wheel design – a lever tension wheel with wire-spokes. It also used one inch rubber tyres, one of which the museum holds in the collection, but which has disintegrated over time to the extent it cannot be displayed.

Saloon, Maclean Residence, Napier, showing the bicycle propped up against the back wall. A B Hurst & Son collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2004/19

Saloon, Maclean Residence, Napier, showing the bicycle propped up against the back wall.
A B Hurst & Son
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2004/19

The bicycle came into the museum collections in 1940, as part of the Lady Maclean bequest. That same year it also featured in the New Zealand centennial celebrations in Wellington.

MacLean’s bicycle will be on display in the Century Theatre foyer from 28 January 2015.  Come in and pay her a visit.

Eloise Wallace, Curator Social History

My thanks to Graeme, Lorne, Carey, Richard and Bob for their expert research assistance.

Visit our Collections page for many more photographs of bicycles and cycling in Hawke’s Bay http://collection.mtghawkesbay.com/welcome.jsp

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volunteering with collections

22.10.2014 Carol Portrait

Volunteers play an important role in museums and galleries and MTG Hawke’s Bay is fortunate to have a regular volunteer, Carol Dacey, who holds the honorary position, Keeper of Textiles. In the weeks prior to the opening of the current exhibition Travel in Style which features items from the wardrobe of New Zealand politician and style icon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, Carol offered advice and assistance in mounting the garments. She was also involved with a number of projects at the time of the redevelopment and continues to provide invaluable assistance. I caught up recently with Carol to talk about her role at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

With so many organisations requiring volunteers, what appealed to you about volunteering at the museum?

I was told that the former Honorary Keeper of Textiles, Joan Maclaurin, was leaving and someone was needed who was able to sew and work with textiles. Having just retired and being a keen sewer, it fitted in well and I liked the idea of working in a museum environment. Since joining the museum I have learned many new skills and I thoroughly enjoy helping alongside the enthusiastic staff of the museum.

When did you first begin volunteering here? In 2006.

Who have you worked alongside at the museum?

I have helped in the Access/Collections and Design and Build teams and I have also worked with the Education team.

Prior to the redevelopment of the museum, what sort of projects were you involved with?

I made calico covers for the men’s suits that were hanging in racks. When the covers were made it was difficult returning them to the hanging racks because of the extra bulk from the fabric and because the space was so confined. I also made ‘sausages’ of different sizes from scraps of calico. These were put into the shoes to stop them from bending and to help prevent the leather cracking. I saw many shoes ranging from babies shoes, which had to have the sausages custom-made, to army boots which required stuffing with several sausages to hold them in shape.

I have re-covered chairs for exhibitions and before the museum closed, I helped a staff member check the accession numbers in the Textiles and Social History department, to make sure the items were correctly catalogued. This was an interesting task as I saw many items in the collection and as some of them were quite large and the accession numbers minute, it could be tricky to find where they were located.

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When the museum closed in 2010 were you able to continue in your voluntary role?

My main job when the museum closed was to make different sized cushions to fit inside the packing boxes.

What did this involve?

During the closure there were two or three sewing and box-making ‘bees’ where staff and volunteers sewed and stitched the cushions and assembled the packing boxes. I washed and ironed many loads of 20 metre lengths of calico, and in my sitting room which became a sewing workshop, I cut out between 750 and 800 cushions. My husband Richard patiently avoided this room for the duration of the project! I measured and cut out the calico and Dacron and marked the cushions individually so although I sewed many of them myself, some could be easily handed on to other sewers.

Was there anything else that you helped with during this time?

Prior to the re-opening of the museum I helped to mount some of the mannequins for the opening exhibitions. This was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. The 1870’s wedding dress required about 5 different petticoats made of tulle and calico to recreate the full style of the skirt. I also mounted a small boy’s dress which was challenging because the neckline of the dress was much wider than the small size mannequin. To overcome this, I had to extend the shoulders of the mannequin in a life-like way to support the dress. I did this with calico, Dacron and conservation card and I also made a small petticoat to support the skirt.

At the museum’s off-site store, I helped the Curator of Archives during the scanning and cataloguing of the photographic collection for the online catalogue by sorting through the photographs and identifying any duplicates. I have also helped the Collections photographer mount clothing and jewellery for photography for record purposes. Some of these were the beautiful beaded dresses in the collection. I also sew accession labels into newly acquired garments.

What has been one of the more challenging tasks you have undertaken?

The most challenging to date was preparing and mounting the garments for the current exhibition ‘Travel in Style’.

Why was this challenging and what did it involve?

A lot of people think you just put the dress on the mannequin or stitch it to shape in some way. In reality you have to make the mannequin fit the dress, using calico, Dacron, card and a lot of ingenuity! Making and attaching legs to fit inside the trousers required a lot of thought and a certain amount of dexterity, partly because of the mannequin’s supporting pole! As ironing the garments is not permitted we used a steamer needing two people to operate it – one holding the steamer and the other manoeuvring a pad underneath the garment. I made a large and small pad shaped like a table tennis bat. This help to safely apply the right amount of pressure underneath the garment as it was steamed.

Carol also volunteers as a host in the museum’s upstairs galleries where she meets and chats with visitors and answers questions or offers background information about the setting and the exhibits.

Linda Macan, Collections Assistant

 

Lithographs of ornithological beauty

At a recent art auction in Wellington, Napier’s Greening the Graveyard group found their attention drawn to three coloured lithographs of New Zealand native birds by printmaker, Thomas Ralph de Vere Gulliver. Knowing that these lithographs would be an appropriate and fitting acquisition for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, and that they would fit into the ethos of the group, they bid on, and won the prints.

The lithographs are the work of civil engineer Thomas Gulliver, a founding member of the Quoin Club, which was formed in 1916 in Auckland at the Mining Chambers in Mills Lane. Other founding members of this group included print makers such as Arnold Goodwin and Albert Hooper both of whom were commercial artists, Reuben Watts, a jeweller and the architect, William Gummer. The Quoin Club artists were at the forefront of New Zealand print making until the club dissolved in 1929. The main objective of the Quoin Club was to foster the arts and crafts movement and the subject matter reflected this by focusing on the realities of everyday life such as indigenous flora and fauna, contemporary city scenes, people at work and leisure and local landscapes. The three prints were from a portfolio of lithographs of native birds produced by the Quoin Club in 1919.

Thomas Gulliver’s interest and knowledge of printmaking led to his appointment as Honorary Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Auckland Art Gallery which was then a part the Auckland Public Library. In 1927 he organized the first temporary exhibition at the Gallery of historical and modern etchings. He was described in the New Zealand Herald at the time of his death, as being New Zealand’s leading authority of the graphic arts.

When viewing the lithographs I was struck by the difference in artistic style between Thomas Gulliver’s imagery and that of Johannes Keulemans, who illustrated Walter Buller’s comprehensive treatise on the ornithology of New Zealand titled A History of the Birds of New Zealand, 1873. On opening the pages of this beautiful leather bound first edition, which is in the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, it is Walter Buller’s description of New Zealand’s native birds that exemplifies the craftsmanship and romanticism conveyed in Gulliver’s lithographs. Therefore, it is in Walter Buller’s words, that these lively and expressive birds are described below:2014.13.2Fantail, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), gifted by Greening the Graveyard Group, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/2

The pied fantail is ever flitting about with broadly expanded tail and perfecting all manner of fantastic evolutions, in its diligent pursuit of gnats and flies is one of the most pleasing and attractive objects in the New Zealand bush. It is very tame and familiar allowing a person to approach within a few feet of it without evincing any alarm. It is found generally in pairs and loves to frequent the wooded banks of mountain streams and rivulets, where it may be seen hovering over the surface of the water gathering gnats. Long may the Pied Fantail thrive and prosper in the face of cats, owls, naturalists, and the whole race of predators. For without it our woods would lack one of the prettiest attractions and our fauna its gentlest representatives.

2014.13.3Morepork, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/3

Every New Zealand colonist is familiar with this little owl, under the name of morepork. It is strictly a nocturnal species, retiring by day to the dark recesses of the forest, or hiding in the crevices of the rocks and coming abroad soon after dusk to hunt for rats, mice, and the various kinds of moths and beetles that fly at night. The ordinary call of this owl at night consists of two notes uttered with vigor and having a fanciful resemblance to the words more-pork from which it derives its popular name. The flight of the bird is light, rapid and so noiseless that, I verily believe, it could surprise and capture a mouse at the very entrance to its burrow.

2014.13.1 Kingfisher, Thomas Gulliver, (b.1891 d.1933), gifted by Greening the Graveyard Group, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2014/13/1 

In light rainy weather the Kingfisher is in his element in the meadows. The moisture brings out the grubs, earthworms and other small animal life to the surface. From his post of observing on the fence he drops nimbly to the ground, swallows his captive and remounts to his perch, repeating the operation every few minutes and for more than an hour at a time. When engaged in fishing, the kingfisher does not plunge into the streams but dips into it lightly as it skims the surface of the water or darts downwards from its post of observation on a rock or overhanging branch. It is moreover, one of those birds that seem instinctively to resort to the habitations of man … and seeks out the new home of the settler, and becomes the familiar companion of his solitude.

I suspect from the beauty of the prints that, like Buller, Thomas Gulliver had a great love for the richness and vitality of the birdlife that abide in New Zealand’s native forest.

The Napier Greening the Graveyard group makes regular donations to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection using funds from taking tours around the historic Napier Cemetery and we are grateful for their support in acquiring these works for the collection.

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
May 2014

Helmet for a Pillow

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The soldier, above all others, prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

– Douglas MacArthur, 1962

Every once in a while there are certain individuals who cross our path and provide insight into areas of life that we would not normally venture. Anyone younger than 65 has more than likely never seen the direct effects of, or fought in a war. While our families can recall grandparents and great-grandparents that fought in either of the world wars, conflict in our recent history has been confined for the most part to our television screens. That is why it is important to keep the memories of those who served alive and undistorted; so that we may never forget that war really is hell.

Bernard 1Bernard Madden, photograph courtesy of Barbara Madden.

One of our latest donations, a large collection of letters between a serviceman and his family during the Second World War, has shone unique views onto military service and the home front in this tumultuous time. In April 1941, Bernard Madden, a 26 year-old driver for Amalgamated Couriers of Napier, left his parents and enlisted in the New Zealand armed forces. After undertaking three months basic training at Trentham, Bernard was quickly sent off to the Middle East as a gunner in the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment, 2 New Zealand Expeditionary Force where he served as a gunner and later a driver.

While overseas Bernard sent many letters to his parents in Napier.  They were read and then passed on to his extended family who lived throughout the Hawke’s Bay region as mail restrictions disallowed excessive postage. It becomes apparent reading through these letters that the first priority for Bernard was of the need to reassure the family at every possible opportunity that he was doing well. Surface-sent letters, which were bulkier and took longer to travel, were sent every week, but he did not hesitate to send faster-arriving, smaller airgraphs (at considerable personal expense) in between these weekly letters to reassure the family.

2013.65.10a (1) Letter from Bernard Madden, 20 September 1941, gifted by Barbara Madden, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/65/10

Bernard appears deeply involved with both his close and extended family. He at times questions if his father’s health is holding up and asks his mother, Louisa, if she is surviving the rationing period, frequently offering to send items home. When his brother Patrick was listed as missing in action as Axis forces advanced on Egypt in 1942, Bernard took it upon himself to question every soldier from Patrick’s unit about his brother’s fate. After Bernard learnt that he was taken prisoner, first to Italy and then to Germany, he made sure the family was kept up-to-date on his location and on the best way to send him his favourite tobacco. Sister Noeline and Cousin Lola were frequently reprimanded for ‘flirting’ with American soldiers based in New Zealand, while his young niece Moira appeared to be his favourite as he constantly asked about her schooling and after-school activities. The agony of being away from those he cared about shows through in Bernard’s writing, particularly as children in the family, some which he had never met,  grew up in the years he was away.

While Bernard did not see much front line action, he did see his fair share of hospital wards. The infection of a scratch on the leg early in the war was the start of a long list of maladies including influenza, intestinal problems and a significant hernia which, due to lifting heavy objects constantly, kept him in hospital and off the front lines for significant amounts of time. This had the unintended effect of allowing for long periods of recuperation time which, since permanent hospitals and respite camps were well behind the front lines, meant Bernard took the time to travel throughout the Middle East and Italy. Bernard’s letters tell of the large orchards scattered throughout Palestine, visiting Jewish communities and learning about their culture, visiting seaside resorts and tours of the countryside with other servicemen. Bernard was also in the right place at the right time during his Italian tour of duty; he writes of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in March 1944 and of arriving back at base minutes before a grand tour of Rome left for the capital.

By the time he had finished his service, Bernard Madden had served with 2 NZEF throughout its major operations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Italy. In addition, he had managed to see the sites of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Bernard left the armed forces after returning to Napier in August 1945 with six campaign medals, later settling in the suburb of Otahuhu, Auckland. His medical conditions, however, lingered, as the effects of war always do, and he was in and out of hospital until late the next year when he was officially discharged from the armed forces. Bernard passed away in Auckland aged 54 years and is survived by his wife Betty, seven children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. He is interred in the soldiers’ section of the Manukau Memorial Gardens.

All 150 of Bernard’s letters are now available on the MTG Hawke’s Bay online collection.

Evan Greensides
Archivist
April 2014

Autumn exhibition changeover

This week saw us saying a fond farewell to Architecture of the heart as the changeover of exhibitions began in the Crombie, Arnott, Malden and Nelson galleries. This process will take four weeks and our autumn suite of exhibitions will open to the public on Saturday 29th March. If you are visiting MTG in March take the opportunity to have a peek into the galleries to see the staff transform the galleries and learn more about the process of deinstalling and installing new exhibitions.

The first week of the changeover saw the deinstallation of Architecture of the heart.  This exhibition included over 100 artworks and objects from the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection as well as a small number of works on loan from private lenders and other institutions.  Artworks were taken off display, condition checked, then carefully packed.  Works from private lenders and other museum and galleries were packed into transport packaging and returned to various parts of New Zealand.

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Nina Finigan and Dena Hale rolling a rug from the installation Atelier Martine Reprised (2013) by Gavin Chilcott.

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Nina Finigan and Jonathon Brown carefully place Claudia Pond Eyley’s Turquoise Shield, (1983-1984) into its specially designed travel frame.

Two of the larger works had oversized travel crates which had to be hoisted up over the glass balcony with scaffolding and rigging before the works could be taken off display. The crates were then hoisted back down carefully over the balcony.

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The crate is lifted over the glass barrier on the first floor balcony.

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Sara Browne, Sasha Smith and James Price carefully place an artwork into its large travel crate, ready to be hoisted down over the first floor balcony.

_DSC9620The crate is carefully hoisted back down over the balcony.

After all the objects are removed from the gallery the exhibition furniture is swapped for the new design layouts and the walls are painted in the new colour schemes. A period of time has to be given to allow for off-gassing of the chemicals within the paint, so theoretically we could call this process “watching paint dry!”

Find out more about our new exhibitions opening on 29th March on our website: http://mtghawkesbay.com/whats-on/upcoming-exhibitions/

Sarah Powell
Collection Assistant – Photography
March 2014

In small things not forgotten

My grandfather, Arthur Black, often told stories of growing up in Porangahau; a childhood filled with adventure – the rugged Southern Hawke’s Bay landscape providing him and his five siblings with a glorious freedom to roam the countryside surrounding their farm. Although I have never lived in this part of New Zealand until now, family stories passed down through the generations and etched into my memory have made this place, Hawke’s Bay, feel like my place.

The Black family, Hawke’s Bay, 1930s. My Grandfather is centre back.
Photo courtesy of Heather Tanguay.

I came to Napier to work at the museum as a collection assistant, but for me it is much more than that. I have returned to connect to the place of those who I hold so dearly; to the landscape that nourished their lives and imaginations, as well as their frustrations and hardships. I think the very same motivation that draws me to connect with my family history in Hawke’s Bay underlines why I have chosen to work in museums. The lines that connect us to the past have always fascinated me. Ever since I was little, when I looked at objects I wanted to see so much more than just the physical form. I wanted to know its history, its story, its lineage. Reflecting on all of this, it makes sense that I have a job where I am surrounded by objects!

British potter Edmund de Waal is clearly also fascinated by the stories that objects can tell if you listen hard enough. His intriguing family history is charted through the movement of a collection of netsuke in his memoir The Hare with the Amber Eyes. One excerpt has always resonated with me and, much more poetically than I, articulates the potential power of objects:

 I want to know what the relationship has been between this…object…and where it has been. I want to be able to reach to the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to walk into each room where this object lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the wall, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt about it and thought about it—if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.

As dramatic and illustrious as de Waal’s family history is, even the most humble object has a story that deserves to be told.

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection, collection of  Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/

Netsuke, Japan, from the Black Collection,
collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 37/100/18

A netsuke was used traditionally by Japanese as a way of tying valuables such as a purse or a tobacco pouch to their kimono sash. This intricately carved Japanese octopus netsuke was collected by Greacen Black (no relation) on one of his many travels and donated to the museum in 1937. Can you think of an object which has a rich story behind it? Are there any objects within the museum’s collection which are connected to your personal family history? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Nina Finigan
Collection Assistant
February 2014

Rolling with the wallpaper

In late November of 2013 upon arriving back at the museum after finishing another busy year at Victoria University, I was given my project for the summer. My mammoth task was to go through a large box full of pre-selected wallpaper, catalogue it and enter it into our ever expanding collection.

The box of wallpaper was gifted to us by Betty Weeber. In the correspondence which accompanied the wallpaper; Betty Weeber wrote of the collection, “They are a record of old wallpapers that my late husband Raymond and his father used in their wallpaper hanging and Master Painters business”. Originally our gracious gift was of numerous boxes of wallpaper, but after a rigorous selection process by the powers that be, these boxes were whittled down to just one box containing over seventy examples. 

My job was now set out in front of me, I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t going to be pretty (believe me when I say this, some of the patterns on the samples were pretty ugly).  I now had to painstakingly document and catalogue each individual wallpaper sample, measuring the lengths and the widths, taking detailed notes of maker’s marks and manufacturer’s logos, describing in detail what the patterns were, what colours were involved in the pattern, gently vacuuming the accumulated dust and dirt from some samples, taking detailed notes of rips, tears and damage and then entering all this information onto our collection database system.

Wallpaper Border Sample, c.1920s, gifted by Betty Weeber, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/63/25

Some samples were large, some samples were small, some were long (and I mean extremely long, like over nine metres long), and some were short.  Some were old and in bad condition, while others were, well, old but were still in extremely good condition, which is pretty impressive considering the majority of them date back to the time when Napier was being shaken to its foundations in the early thirties and some samples were even older. Some examples were hidden, rolled up inside other rolls of wallpaper, which added a surprising aspect to this particular task because, like a parcel in the game pass the parcel, you never quite knew what you were going to find once you started to unroll a roll.

What I found while cataloguing these wallpaper samples is they could be lumped into three different groups, the wallpaper frieze’s (for those reading this thinking “what’s a frieze?” Flash fact: a wallpaper frieze is the strip of wallpaper that goes around the top part of the wall where it meets the ceiling); wallpaper borders, which went around the bottom and the wallpaper drops, which are the samples used to cover the majority of the walls. The examples of the frieze’s were more often than not the examples in the worst condition as the perforations holding them together had come apart or were torn in places due to the continued unrolling and rolling of them over the years.

I also found that these samples and rolls came from all over the world, like Sunworthy and Canadian Wallpaper from, you guessed it, Canada; Crown Wallpaper and Shand Kydd Ltd from England; Griffen Wallpaper Manufacturers from America and even some examples from New Zealand’s very own Ashley Wallpapers.

After these steps the papers had to be photographed, which was done by our collection photographer. I then had to attach the photographs to their collection records and wrap them up and pack them into their packing units where they will stay until they are one day needed for research or exhibition.

2013.63.34bWallpaper Drop Samples, c.1920s, gifted by Betty Weeber, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/63/34b

To be honest at the beginning of this project I didn’t think I would enjoy it, just because it was wallpaper that I would be working with, but the more that I worked my way through this box of wallpaper samples, the more I started to look forward to the next sample. Not because I was one sample closer to the end, but because I wanted see what the next sample would be like, and there were some examples that stood out. One example from the 1930s had a continuing pattern of dense blue tree branches and leaves, through the gaps in the branches and leaves was a bright orange background and scattered randomly throughout the branches and leaves were small yellow star-like flowers. Why this particular example stood out for me was probably because it was visibly the brightest example amongst the lot.

To say the least this project was awesome and I enjoyed it a lot. I consider myself quite lucky to be able to come back to the Bay and to the museum every summer to work on different projects. Hopefully I can come back again at the end of this year to another interesting project.

Tom Mohi
Collection Assistant
January 2014