Associate Curator, History
In my curatorial role I work with the Museum's huge collection of objects related to New Zealand's war and social histories. My particular interests include First World War experiences in the Pacific, Gallipoli, and Sinai-Palestine, the Vietnam War and New Zealand's role in more recent conflicts. With a background in economics I am also strongly interested in economic aspects of New Zealand's war experience and in Auckland's economic development.
Research interests and projects
Currently I am engaged in two material culture projects. The first is a consideration of the greatcoat as a functional, emblematic and economic object that speaks of many aspects of war experience. The second is an exploration of the medal as a military object with social significance.
Explore the collection
Read articles by Gail.
The wartime wedding of Captain Thomas Blake and Connie Deane captured imaginations when it was reported in newspapers in late 1915. The ceremony took place at Zeitoun Camp, near Cairo, in full military style.
The reality of the sea as a First World War battleground is often overlooked. Yet, controlling shorelines and shipping lanes was as critical as achieving success on land.
It's no secret that rugby has loomed large in New Zealand's national imagination for over a century. In 1924 the NZ Truth newspaper extolled the way the sport commanded the country's interest: "Rugby suits the athletic genius of New Zealand".
Scraps of fabric they may be, but flags can broadcast powerful messages. The Museum's collection includes flags used for a variety of purposes, each a statement waiting to be interpreted.
After Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, New Zealand sent an Expeditionary Force Advance Party to capture the German territory of Sāmoa and the state-of-the-art wireless tower recently erected near Apia to capture the German territory on behalf of the British Empire.
Soldiers returning from war experienced a variety of difficulties including money, employment and social adjustment. In 1916 the NZRSA was formed and Māori politician Sir James Carroll referred to the "splendid work being done on behalf of the soldiers".
When Private Donald Melville Wood Brown wrote home in June 1916, quoting a fellow soldier, he had changed his mind about soldiering. Sadly, his war ended when he was killed in action three months later on the Somme.
There were upbeat reports, Christmas care packages sent, and festivities at home - yet little in the way of real relief on the fronts.
On 9 January 1917, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles participated in the final battle of the Sinai Campaign on the borders of Palestine - an event which changed the Middle East in ways which continue to resound today.