Charles De Kempeneer (c.1852–1884), preparator: one of Auckland Museum’s earliest employees


Author: B.J. Gill (Associate Emeritus, Auckland Museum)

Download article (PDF 3MB)


Henry Ward, the American businessman and trader in natural history specimens, visited Auckland Museum in 1881 and subsequently helped the museum to recruit a preparator. Correspondence between Ward and the museum’s curator, Thomas Cheeseman, shows that the first preparator sent by Ward was the Belgian, Charles De Kempeneer, who had worked previously for about seven years at both the “Royal Museum”, Brussels, and at Ward’s establishment in Rochester, New York State.

De Kempeneer started at Auckland Museum in July 1882 for a trial period of about three months until October 1882, the museum having insufficient funds to pay him for longer. He then got work with the Macleay collection in Sydney (Australia) but negotiated with Cheeseman a permanent position at Auckland Museum, whose finances had been improved by the Costley Bequest of 1884. De Kempeneer returned to Auckland to commence work but died on arrival, a tragic loss of a talented young man. By virtue of his short-term engagement, De Kempeneer ranks as one of Auckland Museum earliest employees and the museum’s archival record of the Cheeseman correspondence has enabled a memory of him to be recovered. 


Gill, B.J. 2018. Charles De Kempeneer (c.1852–1884), preparator: one of Auckland Museum’s earliest employees. Records of the Auckland Museum 53: 77-84.

Published online: January 18, 2019