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

MTG Friends Enrich Collection Stories

To all our MTG Friends who have generously donated to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection, we would like to say a huge thank you. Current Friend’s donations have allowed the recent acquisition of three pieces to add to the collection. These were selected as works important to highlight and expand on the stories of artists, art movements and designers already held within the collection, with significance to the Hawke’s Bay region, New Zealand and beyond.

Thomas McCormack OBE is one such artist. Renowned for his skill and application of watercolour, he is considered one of New Zealand’s most important twentieth century painters. Artist Roland Hipkins (1894 – 1951) noted that ‘His efforts…have a remarkable freshness, breadth and simplicity, with spontaneous brush work and a rare quality of colour’ Art in New Zealand 1936 (1)

Born in Napier in 1883, McCormack was largely self-taught and excelled at drawing from an early age. A severe illness at the age of 17 left him unable for many years to partake in his other passion, sports and it was around this time his focus turned solely to painting, consequently cementing his lifelong path as an artist. Thomas McCormackThomas Arthur McCormack in his studio, taken 3 May 1963 [2]

McCormack moved to Wellington in 1921 where he lived and worked for much of his life. In his own words:

  ‘An artist develops from his surroundings – the sea, rivers, plains, and mountains.   His friends and fellow artists, Wellington with its magnificent harbor, its art gallery, exhibitions and artists, a trip to Sydney of about nine months duration; these were factors in my development. A little wine, a sardine or two with their little eyes. A little bread to soften the road and help me on.’ (3)

TA McCormack painting

Untitled, c. 1906, T.A McCormack, b.1883, d.1973 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/35 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection includes many of McCormack’s works. Our recent acquisition being significant in that it is a very early piece, painted when the artist was just 23 years old. The untitled watercolour (c1906) depicts the Ahuriri foreshore, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins – Director MTG Hawke’s Bay notes ‘It is around this time that McCormack arrived at a recognisable, mature style. This work is a key example, in its own way, a big part of the overall story of the artist and the development of his career’.

Another of McCormack’s works ‘Tapestry’ can currently be viewed in our Architecture of the heart exhibition, on display until March 2nd 2014.

Our second purchase, a vase by English ceramic designer Dame Susie Cooper, adds another page in the collections story of a design period close to the heart of this region. Cooper was a prolific English ceramics designer with a career spanning more than seventy years. Beginning with a placement in the early 1920’s as a paintress at Grey & Co Pottery Company in Burslem, England Susie was quickly promoted to lead designer, allowing her the freedom to explore the geometrics and pattern associated with the Art Deco period.

By the late 1920’s Cooper had branched out on her own, forming ‘Susie Cooper Pottery’. Later merging with ‘Wood & Sons’, another local Burslem company who provided her with quality white ware, which she would transform with her vibrant hand painted designs.

Susie Cooper Cup & SaucerCup, saucer and side plate, Susie Cooper (OBE) (b.1902, d.1995), Designer, The Susie Cooper Pottery Limited (estab.1930, closed 1966) manufacturer, purchase, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 91/54ac

Susie’s company grew, eventually supplying Harrods, Selfridges and Waring & Gillow among others with her wares. In 1940 Cooper was presented with the Royal Society of Arts ‘Designer for Industry Award’, the first woman to ever receive this. Our latest addition of Cooper’s work is a vibrant hand painted, green earthenware vase, featuring a Sgraffito design of deer and foliage, a popular Art Deco motif.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection holds many Susie Cooper production pieces, however this vase is significant in that it is an example of her earlier one-off designs. This piece is currently featured in our decorative arts exhibition in the MTG Annex.

Susie Cooper VaseVase, glazed earthenware, C1930, Dame Susie Cooper b.1902 d.1995 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/39/1 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Another prolific English designer, Archibald Knox is the maker of our third acquisition. Much like Cooper, Knox mastered the balance of expressing an individual design voice while still remaining accessible to the masses. In 1899, with an impressive variety of talents, Knox began designing for London store Liberty & Co. Wallpaper, jewellery, ornaments, textiles, silverware and clocks were all part of his extensive range.

Archibald Knox

Archibald Knox, Art Nouveau artist and designer for Liberty & Co., London (1864-1933) Courtesy of Manx National Heritage (4)

The Liberty & Co store specialised in selling fabrics, ornaments and objects from Japan and the far-east, and is attributed with introducing this style to the west. This had a great influence on artists and designers of the time and by the 1890’s founder Arthur Liberty had tapped into the English Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design communities.

With Liberty’s encouragement and business behind them, these designers and the Arts and Craft movement flourished. Liberty aimed for “the production of useful and beautiful objects at prices within the reach of all classes.” (5) This was achieved by keeping manufacturing costs low, meaning lower pricing for customers at the register. This was in contrast to other Art Nouveau Pieces at the time which were generally one-off and therefore priced to match.

Liberty & Co

Liberty & Co Store (undated) [6]

Pewter Vase

Pewter Vase, c1905. Archibald Knox, Liberty b. 1864 d.1933 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/43 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Our recent addition to the collection is the above Arts and Crafts pewter vase, an interesting example of the Liberty & Co ‘Tudic’ range, blending Celtic with Oriental style c1905. During the period this vase was produced, Liberty & Co products were also sold in Hastings, Georgina White – Curator Social History at MTG explains;

From 1908 Hastings businessmen Reginald Gardiner and John A Fraser acted as agents for Liberty and Co, selling fabrics and ‘artistic wares’ first from their offices in the Dominion Buildings on Queen Street and soon after from the Arts and Crafts Depot on Station Street. The Depot showed paintings, metalwork and leatherwork by international and local artists alongside Liberty fabrics. The Depot marked the beginning of Gardiner’s push to generate and promote local arts and crafts in Hawke’s Bay’

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has generously contributed and made the acquisition of these works possible. To become part of the MTG Hawke’s Bay legacy, donate to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust or join as a Friend and enjoy the extensive benefits our friends membership offers. We are currently offering our membership package at a reduced rate (membership re-news 1st July 2014) you can find further information on our friend’s package and how to join HERE

Vanessa Arthur
Friends & Volunteers Coordinator
January 2014

[1] Janet Paul. ‘McCormack, Thomas Arthur’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Nov-2013 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m4/mccormack-thomas-arthur

[2] Thomas Arthur McCormack. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/1513-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22433154

[3] ‘T.A. McCormack’, The New Zealand Academy of fine arts, Catalogue of painting exhibition, December 1971, 2. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi W (62341)

[4] Manx National heritage site, archives. http://www.gov.im/mnh/collectionsonline/People/View.mth?entryid=2536156#

[5] The Archibald Knox Society, Liberty & Co. to ‘Liberty Style’ http://www.archibaldknoxsociety.com/page_112141.html

[6] Liberty London, Our heritage. http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/content/about-liberty/newsarchive

The Journey Home

Curating MTG Hawke’s Bay’s inaugural taonga Māori exhibition Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa has been a personal journey.

I returned to Hawke’s Bay for this position after 11 years in Wellington, studying and teaching, then editing Māori children’s publications.

There have been a new set of challenges working on research for my own iwi. It becomes a personal responsibility to ensure tikanga is respected as well as producing an exhibition that is of interest and inspirational. I have re-established relationships with those I’ve known throughout my childhood, with the intention that their stories are told appropriately and with respect.

I’m fortunate that I had previous networks in Hawke’s Bay before I even started. My mother was known for her work in the local community. Growing up here has been an advantage. The hapū we have been researching like to know someone’s grown up here and offered their time for the community.

When I go out into the community to talk about what we’re doing it is important to establish your hapū connections first. Make time to talk and stay for a cup of tea. The whānau and kaumātua have been really supportive of what have been doing with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. They have been on this journey with us.

It’s been a unique process, and I’m glad that MTG management have been really understanding in allowing Kaitiaki Taonga Māori Tryphena Cracknell, Designer Desna Whaanga-Schollum and myself to maintain these relationships appropriately.

The concept of this exhibition came about quite organically and was one of three proposed concepts. Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa seemed relevant for an opening taonga show and an appropriate opening introduction since the previous taonga exhibition Ngā Tukemata had stood for 22 years. Ūkaipō will be renewed after 12 months.

Migoto Eria_DSC5251

MTG Hawke’s Bay Curator Taonga Māori Migoto Eria, holds a pou tokomanawa from Tutira. This pou affiliates to Ngāti Hineuru, Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Tū, Ngāti Kurumōkihi, Ngāti Whakaairi, gifted by Mrs J Archer Absolom, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 75/239

People should expect something different with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. The approach is relevant to current audiences, is inclusive and aims to accommodate wider age groups. Our point of difference in terms of taonga exhibitions is to remind people of their identity, upbringing and homeground. That is what Ūkaipō is, regardless of age or ethnicity.

What we would like is for our visitors to see themselves in this show, whether that be seeing photos of themselves when they were kids, or hearing their voices or the voices of their mokopuna. Rather than just seeing a carving, they will hear the descendants speaking about it.

The Waiohiki pou tokomanawa (interior carved ancestral posts) which were at the entrance of Ngā Tukemata are significant and identifiable by local hapū. These pou are included in Ūkaipō as it is important that these taonga are accessible to the iwi and the community.

There are two other significant pou tokomanawa going on display, one from Ahuriri and another from Tutira. I remember the Tutira pou very well. When I was young my whānau and I would come and mihi to this pou who is our tipuna and represents the descedants of Tutira. The pou was found in Lake Tutira in the late 19th Century by Guthrie Smith, and came into the museum collection in the late 1970’s.

These taonga have significant mana, and it’s been important to work the show around them. They have such a presence and people expect to see them. This is what Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa is about – identity and whakapapa. This exhibition allows access to taonga and whakapapa, showcasing local stories, featuring local tipuna.

Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa opens to the public on September 21.

– Migoto Eria, Curator Taonga Maori

dots per inch

In May, we began work on an eight month project to digitise part of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust’s photograph collection. As part of this process, around 7000 images will be scanned and catalogued in preparation for the launch of an online database in 2013. 

The collection is rich in depth and breadth, spanning over 150 years of Hawke’s Bay history and covering a diverse range of subjects including portraiture, the local landscape, and local events. It also includes works by a number of prominent New Zealand photographers, including Percy and Charles Sorrell.

The aim of this project is to improve access to the collection, enabling researchers and members of the public to more easily search the collection.

An area of the collection that has recently been digitised is a group of photographs donated by the family of prominent local architect, J A Louis Hay (b.1881, d.1948).

Portrait of J A Louis Hay as a member of a Highland Pipe Band, circa 1900.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 8746

Born in Akaroa, Louis Hay settled in Napier in the early 1890s. It was here that he began his career as an architect, undertaking his apprenticeship with a firm owned by Charles Tilleard Natusch. In 1904 he moved to Invercargill, but returned to Napier in 1906 to establish his own architectural practice. His practice gained momentum and the 1930s were a very busy time for him. However, due to ill health he did very little work after 1940.

Consisting of over 90 images, the Louis Hay collection provides an important record of the buildings and structures that he designed throughout his career. Among the many buildings that are represented within the collection is Parker’s Chambers on Herschell Street, Napier. Originally completed in 1929, the building was damaged as a result of the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in February 1931 and was subsequently reconditioned, with the Herschell Street façade being reduced from three storeys to two. A series of photographs in the collection records the changing appearance of the building between 1929 and the early 1930s, including the process of reconditioning the facade.

Parker’s Chambers, Herschell Street, Napier, 1929-30 and 1931-32.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 8795 and 8794

The Frank Moodie Collection is another significant group of photographs. Francis Lizar Moodie was an architect from Auckland. He started a partnership with his former teacher and fellow architect Arthur Pollard Wilson (b.1851, d.1937) in 1910 and by the 1920’s the firm had become Wilson, Moodie and Gillespie.

The collection was donated by an Auckland resident and records in comprehensive detail the buildings damaged in the 1931 earthquake and the destruction that touched the entire Hawke’s Bay region. Moodie’s photographs tend to be taken from a more structural view point; many of them have notes on the back about how the building was constructed. After cataloguing nearly 150 images attributed to Moodie it is possible to see trends in those buildings that survived the quake and the ones that did not. 

While the earthquake is one of the most well documented events of our local history, Moodie’s collection is significant in that it includes images of Hastings and wider Hawke’s Bay, as far south as Te Aute and Waipukurau, giving a wide ranging overview of the damage to the region.

Te Aute College,
In the centre of the image is the College Hall, which was part of the Fergusson block.
Just visible at the right is the Jellicoe (northern) wing.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 7253 d

The Tavistock Hotel on Ruataniwha Street in Waipukurau after the Hawke’s Bay earthquake on the 3rd of February 1931, it still stands today.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 7254 b

In contrast to the quintessentially Hawke’s Bay images featured in the collection there are many images whose subject matter lies beyond the district boundaries, often recording events of national historical significance. Settlers and immigrants that participated in events outside Hawke’s Bay have contributed photographs from other regions and these provide a national context to the collection. Many of these early documentarians later settled in the province of Hawke’s Bay and became regional identities.

One such local identity was Dr William Isaac Spencer (b. 1831, d.1897), a contemporary of William Colenso and Augustus Hamilton. Within the larger Spencer Family collection of archival material and objects generously donated by the family is a significant photographic collection. Whilst most of this material portrays the family’s later Napier life, there is a small collection of material relating to the New Zealand Wars. Spencer was an assistant surgeon for the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and was involved in military campaigns in Waikato and Whanganui.

As an amateur photographer he captured many images from this period, typically of landscapes and encampment life. In fact, many of his images appear to shy away from scenes of conflict and its aftermath, or the gritty reality of his work as a surgeon. Instead, his images are often taken from the margin, in moments of stillness and calm, skirting climactic events. Images of camp life appear idealized and are set either against idyllic bush scenes or dramatic landscapes. Few of the images include people.

Spencer’s photographs of this period are largely albumen prints. Albumen paper was the most affordable and widely used photographic material in the second half of the 19th century. These prints use the albumen of egg whites to bind chemicals to a paper surface. As such they are extremely fragile and subject to deterioration.

Rangiriri Redoubt, November 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 41

British Camp at Meremere, November 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 13

Ngaruawahia, December 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 35

We are excited that the digitization of these photographs will make them accessible to a wider audience. The scanning will also help preserve the images by reducing handling.

Emma Knowles
Frances Oliver
Kimberley Stephenson

September 2013