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

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

Working my way to the top

At this moment I am sitting in a curatorial office, a place not accessible by the public, working on not only this blog but work that will be featured in the Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa exhibition by Migoto Eria. I am a volunteer student from Hukarere Girl’s College learning the ropes of being an exhibition curator.

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Once a week I spend the afternoon at MTG, working with Migoto and learning about the different aspects of a job as a curator. In the few weeks I have been volunteering at MTG I have gained a better understanding of the importance of artifact placement in an exhibition or the amount of care that is needed when handling these precious taonga.

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To succeed in a career as a curator you must have a sharp eye for detail and be able to see things from another’s perspective, skills I only hope to improve while working with Migoto. However there is a lot of work that is not seen by the public, such as the researching, planning, meetings, graphs and charts behind the artifact you see in the display cabinets; if only you could see the photos, papers and sticky notes scattered around Migoto’s desk.

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In my short time here I have seen how passionate these people are about their work, from Migoto and her fellow curators, to the design team who make so much of these exhibitions possible even the friendly people who welcome you as soon as you walk through the doors.

I would advise young people who are interested in a career path as a curator or museum worker to come down at check what’s happening at MTG, everyday I’m gaining experience and improving my skills that will help me in the future, I’m working my way to the top.

Maia Te Koha
Student volunteer at MTG
December 2013

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

as prepared as possible

Over the past couple of years, there have been some major disasters around the world. One often-overlooked aspect of these events is their effect on the heritage industry – the museums, galleries and historic places that are in the impact zone.

Staff practice the skills needed to recover paper-based objects after a small clean-water incident.

The earthquakes that have been occurring for over a year in Christchurch have had our full attention here at HBMAG.  Whirling around in our institutional thoughts are: the damage to, and temporary closures of, the Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch Art Gallery.  The Gallery remains closed to the public until 2013 while city council staff are based there, and the Museum is temporally closed whilst further engineering reports are being commissioned and assessed.  We hear too of the exceptional assistance that the Air Force Museum has provided to smaller Christchurch institutions.

As our collection move finished and our building renovations began, we reviewed our own institutional disaster preparedness.  Are we prepared to handle such surprise events?

While these thoughts were busily percolating away, Napier City Council contacted the Museum with an offer to attend a training course they had arranged with Triptych Conservation on collection recovery skills for archives, libraries and museums after a water-based incident.  This was a full day course of hands-on practice.  Attendees learnt safe methods of picking up and moving wet papers, books and photographs as well as how to set up areas for sorting objects, and how to track the movement of objects.  There was also a section providing advice on setting up a disaster response team.

Staff discussing clean-water recovery techniques

After the training course, there was much discussion within the Museum as to what we would need to do to put together our own comprehensive disaster plan.  The training session provided a clear understanding of why such a plan, and relevant staff training, would be a worthy investment of staff time.  It also provided the impetus we needed to go ahead with creating the necessary documents.

Research has shown that Dplan (www.dplan.org) was the best way to develop our own plan. DPlan provides a template to complete and stores your information securely online for free.  It has two different versions so that the joining institution can develop their plan at whatever level is most appropriate for them.  Five staff members were chosen to be part of the disaster response team and lead development of the plan.

It took the team just over four months to complete the disaster plan.  Among the things we had to do were: filling disaster bins with supplies ready for use in any disaster; investigating off-site locations that the collection could be moved to if need be – both locally and further afield; assigning all staff to their roles in the recovery teams; contacting possible sources of supplies to get emergency contact information; mapping the locations of the water and gas turn-off valves, etc.  

Having a disaster plan in place puts the Museum in a strong position, but it is the staff that are our most important resource.  Everyone on the team needs to know what the plan is for and how to use it so training is vital.  One of the most important activities of the disaster response team is to develop a wide-ranging and interesting ongoing training plan.

Items salvaged during staff training start to air dry

Our initial training was a presentation by Civil Defence on how to prepare our homes and families for a disaster.  Since then, training has included salvaging wet archive material and a test-run of removing the highest-priority objects from the collection store under time-pressure.   Future training will include organising supplies and logistics and a joint fire-response exercise with the Napier Fire Department where, after they practice putting a fire out, we practice cleaning up the objects.  Disaster training will continue to be a regular feature of the professional development for the whole team here at the Museum.

Today we are pleased to say we have a comprehensive disaster plan and regular staff training in place so we can be as prepared as possible for events that we truly hope never happen!

Emily Murray, May 2012

vinka’s bridal wonderland

I have just returned from a flying visit to Te Papa, where I was speaking about one of my favourite designers from our fashionable past – the fabulous Vinka Lucas.  My talk was part of the programme for Te Papa’s exhibition Unveiled – 200 years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and it lifted the lid on the bridal wonderland that Vinka, and her former husband David Lucas, developed in the 1960s.

The focus of my talk was the innovation and big-thinking that made Vinka’s Maree de Maru boutique such a key destination for New Zealand brides. In contrast with the contemporary bridal industry, in which women largely expect to be provided with finished garments, Vinka established her business at a time when her core clientele wanted to sew their own gowns. To meet this market without compromising her vision as a designer, Vinka developed a comprehensive range of services that ranged from fully finished couture gowns through to customised mail-order patterns, fabrics and trims.  With David Lucas working hard to cook up new marketing schemes and opportunities to promote Vinka’s designs, Maree de Maru soon become a high profile bridal business. 

One of the things I spoke about at Te Papa was the pattern service that Vinka offered via Maree de Maru and a network of fabric stores the couple developed known as the United Bridal Salons. Using this service, brides across New Zealand could select a gown from a comprehensive catalogue of Vinka’s designs, purchase a customised paper pattern and specified material from a member of the United Bridal Salons network, and then get to work making their dream gown.  

Vinka's designs were available to brides across New Zealand via publications such as 'Maree de Maru Marriages' and 'New Zealand Bride'.

Fabrics obviously became a key part of this process, and Vinka and David made considerable efforts to ensure that their business had a secure supply of exclusive fabrics.  However, when Vinka required extra special fabric for a key showpiece gown, she often went beyond the existing supply chain and commissioned customised fabrics. It was these unique gowns that were on display in the Maree de Maru salon, and appeared in private showings and bridal parades, inspiring brides across New Zealand.

Vinka's romantic gown and headpiece first appeared on the pages of 'New Zealand Bride' - a magazine run by David Lucas

The Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust textile collection is lucky enough to include one of these rare examples of a custom-printed Maree de Maru wedding dress, donated to the collection by Vinka herself in 2009. 

Vinka's gown is now in the collection of Hawke's Bay Museum's Trust / Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi (2009/36). The beadwork was retrospectively added by the designer many years later.

The fabric of this gown was printed by a Bronwen Mooney – a screenprinter who completed several key commissions for Vinka.  Various sources I have come across have led me to understand that Mooney worked in Hawke’s Bay for a period of time, and I wonder also if she might be a textile printer that also collaborated with Taumarunui designer Michael Mattar.  I would very much like to find out more about Mooney as a textile designer, as her work would have such a good fit with the strong New Zealand textile design and fashion collection held here at HBMAG.

Vinka's design was brought to life by custom screen printing by Brownen Mooney

This talk was a lovely excuse to delve back into the wonderful world of Vinka Lucas, and find out a little more about a designer who has made such a big contribution to New Zealand fashion history.

Lucy Hammonds, March 2012

Images appear with the permission of Vinka Design

happy new year leo

Lately, we’ve been spending rather more time than usual looking over our shoulders – it’s inevitable I suppose that we seek to be reassured by the history of this place as we rush headlong toward the reopening of the Museum next year.

In the weeks before Christmas we chanced across a delightful file of ‘miscellaneous’ papers written by museum directors’ past. During our spare moments we pored over the scraps of paper, reading aloud to each other snippets of this and that – from intriguing anecdotes about the collection, to all sorts of amusing advice about how to run a museum.

It is the voice of Leo Bestall (1895 – 1959), the Museum’s first Director that dominates these files. I immediately felt a very strong impression of him and was possessed by that nagging desire that inflicts a historian from time to time – to meet the man. How I wish I could have talked to him – if it is possible to know a man at all from the leavings on a few pieces of paper I don’t know – but I thought we might have got along rather well and I felt the disappointment that comes from lifetimes that don’t cross.

Working in a museum, a type of public institution that exists in the world mainly because of the passionately obsessive curiosity and drive of particular individuals, long dead men have a way of looming over us. Just as I was feeling over-burdened by the weight of one demanding institutional ancestor – thank you William Colenso – I read these documents and felt Leo shake my brain about even more. 

Bestall’s perspectives on museums in general, and this one in particular were refreshing and energising. He was no passionless academic, he doesn’t get too tangled in questioning whether museums should exist and why, he knew it and he just got on and did it, scrambled over the hurdles and seemed to have a rather good time.

It’s all too easy to feel exhausted by the demands of this new museum we are making, especially now the calendar has ticked around to 2012 and reopening looms just one year away. Bestall’s lessons were good and timely ones for me.

Just before Christmas the whole team visited the museum site to have an explore and share a morning tea with our lovely builders from Gemco. I was particularly keen to get back into the ‘Bestall’ Gallery because the name meant more to me than it had before. Uppermost in my mind as I walked around was the fun and thrill of what we were doing. In particular, I had such pleasure in seeing the restoration of Bestall’s building underway, its galleries are a thing of beauty and I know they will be a pleasure to inhabit in their new form.

It was Leo’s vision, and sheer bloody-mindness that made this building in 1936. In proof that passion bears fruit that outlasts us, I think he would be quite delighted to see the HBMAG’s current team wandering about the bones of his building, as alive to its possibilities almost 80 years on.

So Leo, a 2012 New Year’s toast to you, thanks for those letters you left behind, we are thinking about you, and we think what you made here in Napier in 1936 was pretty darn fantastic.