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Exhibition explores wild life of pioneering New Zealander

Exhibition explores wild life of pioneering New Zealander

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A new exhibition at Auckland Museum explores the life of pioneering New Zealand botanist Lucy Cranwell (1907-2000).

Lucy Cranwell: Walk on the Wild Side, opening on Friday 12 March, uses rarely seen footage, interviews, and draws from the Museum’s extensive botany collections to tell the story of a woman passionate about the outdoors.

In 1929, aged only 21, Cranwell became Auckland Museum’s curator of botany. For 14 years she was devoted to sharing her love of botany and the bush to a generation of children, organising native flower shows, writing newspaper articles and leading field trips to remote and wild locations.

Cranwell’s botanical curiosity and adventurer’s spirit took her from the tops of mountains to the bottom of murky bogs. With an enthusiasm revered by her male colleagues she slogged through forests, slept on frost covered hills and extracted ancient pollen from marshlands, making some of the most important discoveries about New Zealand plants.

The exhibition also features a curious specimen collected by Cranwell, the vegetable sheep (Raoulia exima) – named for its eerie resemblance to a real sheep. The 61kg vegetable sheep was dug up and lugged down Canterbury’s Mt Torlesse by Cranwell and her companions in 1931.

Lucy Cranwell: Walk on the Wild Side investigates how Cranwell, one of New Zealand’s first female scientists, earnt international acclaim for her groundbreaking work on the reconstruction of ancient botanical landscapes.

Lucy Cranwell: a remarkable woman who led a life worth celebrating.