Most biological specimens entering a museum collection lead a quiet afterlife in the dark depths of a storage cabinet, but such was not the fate of this weta. Details of its history prior to 1880 are taken from Colenso’s published paper.
1839: Captured in a small low wood behind Paihia according to published information (not 1838 as written on the label).
1839-43: Examined by luminaries in Paihia – Ernst Dieffenbach, Sir Joseph Hooker, Dr Andrew Sinclair, Lady Franklin and various visiting American and French naturalists.
1843-1864: Packed away in a box when Colenso moved from the Bay of Islands to found a mission station just south of Napier. This was a particularly busy and tumultuous period in Colenso’s life.
1865: Exhibited at the New Zealand Exhibition, Dunedin.
1880: Colenso decides it is a new species and presents a paper to the Hawkes Bay Philosophical Institute.
1882: The 1880 paper with Colenso’s description and name are published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute (not 1880 as the labels state).
1896: Capt. F.W. Hutton borrows it from Colenso and concludes that it is identical to wetapunga, the little Barrier I giant weta Deinacrida heteracantha which had been named and published in 1842. Hutton’s verdict is published in 1897. This is the correct scientific name for it today.
1899: Came into the possession of H.T. (Henry) Hill’s family, Napier, following Colenso’s death, probably bought by H.T. Hill from the estate. The auctioneer’s catalogue mentions “1 Lot of Preserved Insects etc & 1 Lot of Specimens of all sorts (£5)”.
1931: Purchased by Auckland Museum from W.H. (Harry, son of Henry) Hill for £5 after due diligence by Museum director Gilbert Archey.
1937-43: Found its way into the private collection of Wilfred Hemingway, Honorary Entomologist, Auckland Museum. It seems that Hemingway took a liking to it and took it home for his personal insect collection.
1943: ‘Discovered’ in Hemingway’s collection when Mrs Hemingway donated the collection to Auckland Museum after his death.
2002: Poster girl and displayed in More than a Mummy, Auckland Museum’s 150th birthday exhibition.