How do you create a museum?

 

The Institute's Minute Book from 150 years ago reveals the people and events that shaped the Auckland Museum and its vast collections. 

A group of forward-thinking Aucklanders formed the Institute and set themselves the goal of "promoting science and literature by means of a museum and library".

Look through a selection of the original meeting notes to learn about the Institute’s earliest members and their vision, which resulted in the Museum we enjoy today.

1868

6 February 1868

Articulating a vision

This beautifully designed coat of the arms supports the Institute’s vision of the Museum as a storehouse of knowledge. The motto Whaowhia means ‘well stocked’.

The Institute articulated its vision in 1868. Its clear purpose to create an institution promoting science, the arts, and literature has resulted in the museum and library we have today.

The Auckland Institute and Museum coat of arms was designed by TV Gulliver in 1926. This version was produced by Carlton Studio in 1928. Auckland Museum Collection: 71/4

10 March 1868

Name changer

Artist, surveyor, and Society member Charles Heaphy, pictured here, put forward the motion that the Auckland Philosophical Society was renamed the Auckland Institute.

The Society wanted to become a branch of the New Zealand Institute, and the name change was to align more closely with them.

Auckland in 1859. Photographer Bruno Hamel, Auckland Museum Collection: PH-ALB-84-p2-1

21 March 1868

A permanent benefit

At the heart of the Institute was a desire to drive the intellectual and scientific life of Auckland. With that in mind, the committee decided to spend one third of its revenue on buying books for the steadily growing library and purchasing natural history objects to begin a collection.

This foresight meant that the Museum had an extensive library by the time it moved to a purpose-built building in Princes St.

The Auckland Museum library in the Princes St building in 1928. Photographer James Douglas Richardson, Auckland Museum Collection: PH-NEG-14818

21 March 1868

Early adopters

James Tannock Mackelvie was typical of the Institute members, who were excited by new technology and the advances of science. Big news at the time was the completion of the trans-Atlantic telegraphic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland.

It took several attempts and 14 years to successfully lay the cable which had a huge impact on the speed of communication.

Mackelvie presented this photographic album of the cable machinery to the Museum. The album is still in the Museum’s collection.

The album with photographs of the trans-Atlantic cable machinery on board the steamship Great Eastern in 1867. Photographer John Thomson, Auckland Museum Collection: PH-ALB-518

30 May 1868

Hochstetter’s New Zealand

German naturalist Ferdinand von Hochstetter used the Museum rooms as a base for his survey of the Auckland Province in 1859–60. He was also a key figure in establishing the Museum’s natural sciences collection.

When the English language edition of his book on the geography, geology, and natural history of New Zealand was published in 1867, the committee was keen to obtain a presentation copy for the library.

Ferdinand von Hochstetter’s book on Auckland included these images of the species found in Papakura forest and a view of Mt Eden from The Domain. Auckland Museum Collection: QH197 HOC

4 July 1868

It’s official

Dr James Hector sent a letter to the Institute containing the good news that it would soon become a branch of the New Zealand Institute.

James Hector was the governor of the New Zealand Institute, and a key figure in promoting scientific knowledge in New Zealand. He was also in charge of the colonial geological survey.

The New Zealand Institute is now called the Royal Society Te Apārangi. Three other societies from Wellington, Canterbury, and Dunedin also became branches at the same time as Auckland.

James Hector (seated on the box) and his staff in the grounds of the Colonial Museum around 1874, with a pygmy right whale skeleton. Thomas Kirk, Auckland Museum’s first curator, is standing between Richard Gore with a top hat and Alexander McKay with a cloth cap. Alexander Turnbull Library: F-004109-1/2

5 October 1868

Honorary members

The council unanimously elected Ferdinand von Hochstetter as the Institute’s first honorary member. Hochstetter was instrumental in establishing Auckland Museum’s natural history collection, asking for specimens for this purpose.

Today there are over 2000 Institute members, including 424 life members. The most recent life member is Cindy Pocock-Smith who worked for the Museum for 35 years.

Dr Ferdinand Hochstetter was the first honorary member of the Institute. Photographer Bruno L Hamel, 1859, Auckland Museum Collection: PH-ALB-84-p1

31 October 1868

Insights

Members of the Institute made a request that this eclectic list of topics be printed and distributed to the public. Members could hear papers on the formation of sand dunes, substances for dyeing, and the effects of climate on diseases.

These subjects were relevant to the practical needs of a new colony as well as wider global issues. Two hundred copies were published.

A published list of subjects suitable for reading at meetings of the Institute, November 1868. Auckland Museum Collection: MUS-95-3-1

31 October 1868

Insights (continued)

Members of the Institute made a request that this eclectic list of topics be printed and distributed to the public. Members could hear papers on the formation of sand dunes, substances for dyeing, and the effects of climate on diseases.

These subjects were relevant to the practical needs of a new colony as well as wider global issues. Two hundred copies were published.

A published list of subjects suitable for reading at meetings of the Institute, November 1868. Auckland Museum Collection: MUS-95-3-1