Whether you're after a fast fact or a deep dive, the pieces on this page shine a spotlight on some of the Museum's research, collection objects, and many other topics in between.

Latest short reads

Curious Collections


Your Museum

Short reads

Where did Easter eggs come from? How many species of insect did kiwi kids document over the Covid-19 lockdown? What ever happened to the flour mill on Karangahape Road? Find the answers to these and many other questions you didn't know you had in these short reads.

Bag Moth

Whare atua

The Common Bag Moth

The common bag moth, Liothula omnivora, is endemic and can be found across Aotearoa New Zealand. Known also as whare atua (‘house of the spirit’), kopi (‘shut’), or Hineraukatauri (the goddess of Māori flute music), its common name comes from the strong silk bag, which the larva spins around itself, incorporating vegetation and bark from its host plants. In Māori tradition, Hineraukatauri loved her pūtōrino flute so much, she transformed into the moth living inside her pūtōrino bag. This bag is brown or grey and can often be seen hanging from the branches of several native and introduced plant species.

The bag’s design can be used to guess the sex of the larva within; males incorporate debris all along the length of the bag, whereas females place a few pieces of vegetation at its narrow end. The larva has three pairs of legs on its thorax and five pairs of ‘prolegs’, which hook into the lining of its bag, allowing it to drag the bag along as it forages. During the day and when threatened, the larva will retreat into the bag, closing the opening tightly. After pupating, males emerge as a black moth, whereas females are wingless and maggot-looking; females will lay eggs and die shortly after within their bags. Keep an eye out for those beautiful bags on your next walk through the bush!

Photographs by Morgane Merien

O Le Sulu Samoa – (The Torch)

O Le Sulu Samoa – (The Torch)

One of the Samoan measina held in the collections of Tamaki Paenga Hira’s research library is the mission magazine ‘O le Sulu Samoa’, published to highlight London Missionary Society activities and community news. Beginning in 1839, this magazine continues to be published today by the Ekalesia Fa’apotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa). The considerable run provides a rich resource for researchers, and a compelling narrative of Samoa’s historical journey.

A little background
On August 24, 1830, John Williams, a minister with the Congregationalist London Missionary Society, landed at Sapapali’i village along the coast of Savaii, in search of Malietoa Vaiinupo, a paramount chief of Samoa. Upon meeting Malietoa at a large gathering in Sapapali'i, the LMS mission was accepted and grew rapidly throughout the Samoan Islands. The Church established itself at Maluapapa (now known as Malua), twenty kilometres west of Apia. Maluapapa quickly became the centre of Congregationalist activity for the Pacific, particularly after the establishment of Malua Theological College in 1844 by the Reverends George Turner and Charles Hardie.

By 1839 the Mission had started publishing ‘O le Sulu Samoa’ on their printing press at Malua. This printing press had been established with the express aim of publishing material in Samoan to aid the spread of the Gospel and conversion of the Samoan community to the Christianity of the Congregational Church. Over the many years of publication, a wide range of material was translated into Samoan and published in the Sulu Samoa, including the stories of ‘Tusitala’ or Robert Louis Stevenson.

A few libraries across Australia and New Zealand have issues of ‘O le Sulu Samoa’, but no library has a complete run of the 106 years of publication. Tamaki Paenga Hira holds a run of issues from 1902 to 1919 and then a few issues donated by the Reverend Robert Challis, the beloved senior minister of the Pacific Island Congregational Church in Auckland, from the early 1950s.

By the 1900s, in the issues held at Tamaki Paenga Hira, each magazine includes local community news alongside news of events in the wider Pacific area. Births, deaths and marriages in colonial families are noted; families such as Ah Sue, Armstrong, Betham, Carruthers, Churchward, Conradt, Gladding, Hannemann, Harman, Holzhauzen, Krüger, Laban, Nelson, Patterson, Rasmussen, Riedel, Roberts, Schmidt, Skelton, Tattersall, Traub, von Tyszka, Wendt and Wuelfingen.

Bake some Anzac biscuits

Bake some Anzac biscuits

This Anzac Biscuit recipe is a tried and true Edmonds Cookery Book recipe. This 4th Edition Edmonds Cookery Book, released in 1923, is just one of the many Edmonds Cookery Books we hold in Documentary Heritage Collection.

From the Edmonds Cookery Book
½ cup Champion standard plain flour
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup coconut
¾ cup Fleming’s rolled oats
50 g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
½ teaspoon Edmonds baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats. Melt butter and golden syrup. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup. Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Place level tablespoonful of mixture onto cold greased trays. Bake at 180 ºC for about 15 minutes or until golden. Makes 20.

From paralysis to world champion

From paralysis to world champion

Something very extraordinary happened in 1938. A woman by the name of Monica "Mona" Leydon (1915-2002) won New Zealand a bronze medal in the 440 yards freestyle at the third British Empire Games, held in Sydney. Her race was just 3 3/5 seconds shy of the world record. But what was it about her win that made it so significant?

Just seven years prior, Mona was unable to walk without the aid of a walking stick. Afflicted with polio since childhood, Mona had fought with paralysis her whole life. She wore callipers to assist her with walking and went through many surgeries to treat her affected left leg. Despite these challenges, Mona became the holder of 13 national championship titles from 1933 to 1938. Her 1938 win at the British Empire Games saw her become a national celebrity. The Evening Star called her “an object lesson to those who would succeed at the sport … the greatest all-round woman swimmer New Zealand has developed,” and she was praised by international commentators.

Mona’s condition was not merely an obstacle for her to overcome, but a part of her journey towards becoming a swimming champion. Following her doctor recommending it to her mother, Mona began swimming as a child to strengthen her muscles. Mona's mother ran the Wellesley Private Hotel on the corner of Wellesley and Hobson Street in Central Auckland. From here, Mona would take a short walk down to the Tepid Baths, on Customs Street West, where she would complete as many as 80 laps a day in training. A fiercely determined athlete, Mona insisted on a short training session even on competition days.

The black silk swimsuit worn by Mona in her bronze medal performance at the 1938 British Empire Games has recently been acquired by Tāmaki Paenga Hira, along with her medal, her blazer and other objects associated with her national swimming career.

Edmonds Chocolate Lamingtons from 1923

Edmonds Chocolate Lamingtons from 1923

Try out this century-old lamington recipe for your next lockdown luncheon. We've converted the original imperial measurements to metric to make it easier for the modern-day home baker to use.


Make Three Minute sponge:​

Put into a basin 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup sugar; break in 3 eggs, add 3 tablespoons melted butter and 2 tablespoons milk.

Beat 3 minutes, then stir in 2 tsp Edmonds baking powder.

Put in sandwich tins, bake at 190c for 15-20 minutes.

To make lemon sponge, add grated rind of lemon and a little juice (leave out the equivalent milk). Also same for orange.

Leave until the next day, cut into squares, and dip each in chocolate icing then roll in coconut. Leave to dry.


Chocolate icing:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cocoa

6 tablespoons boiling water

350g icing sugar

Few drops vanilla essence


Melt butter, add cocoa dissolved in boiling water. Mix in sifted icing sugar, add vanilla essence, and beat well.​

About 225g coconut is required for coating.


Image Credit: Edmonds Sure to Rise Cookery Book, 4th Edition, 1923. 2015.51.61.

Form and function

Eid al Fitr

Form and function

Eid al Fitr, or the Festival of Breaking the Fast, is when Muslims around Aotearoa and the world celebrate the end of Ramadan, the month of dawn-to-sunset fasting. The Ramadan festival honours the revealing of the Qu’ran to the prophet Muhammad.

In the Museum’s collections, we hold this leather satchel and unbound Qu’ran, with handwritten calligraphic and illustrated pages in black, red, and yellow. This innovative style of Qu’ran is commonly associated with the Hausa people of Northern Nigeria, designed with accompanying satchel (gafaka in Hausa language) for ease when travelling. The lack of binding means that the elaborately decorated pages can be studied individually, and also shared with others for memorising. Still made today by calligrapher scholars, this Qu’ran is an early 20th Century example of the manuscript culture of North East Nigeria in Muslim Africa. A description of the contemporary making of this type of manuscript is detailed in The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa (2017).

This particular Qu’ran was donated to the Museum in 1928 by J R Adams-Wilkes, a New Zealander who worked as a colonial administrator in Nigeria. If you have any information about the history of this type of Qu’ran, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy Diwali!


Happy Diwali!

The Auckland Diwali Festival takes its inspiration from Diwali or Deepavali (row of lamps), an important and ancient Indian festival celebrated throughout India and in Indian communities around the world. To celebrate, the Museum hosted a panel discussion about being Indian in Aotearoa, and we also spoke to staff about what Diwali means to them.

The indomitable Polly Plum

The indomitable Polly Plum

Mary Colclough, or "Polly Plum", was at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand. She attracted large audiences in Auckland, Thames, Ngāruawāhia and Hamilton at a time when public speaking by women was not common (boats were laid on from the North Shore for her second Auckland lecture). Under her nom de plume "Polly Plum" she occupied many column inches squaring up to her numerous dissenters. Responding to a Letter to the Editor in 1871, Mary summed up her demands for all women succintly as “the right, as thinking, reasoning beings, to decide for themselves what is best for their own happiness. If they were satisfied with man's decision, this agitation for change would not be.”

Born in London in 1836, Mary trained as a teacher before coming to New Zealand in 1859, where she married in 1861. Her husband died young so Mary continued working and raised her two children independently. She became a household name in the 1870s as a champion for women’s rights to an education, their own careers, guardianship of their children and the vote. She also advocated for temperance as well as improved treatment of prostitutes and women prisoners.

Mary crossed the Tasman in 1874 where she continued her support for women’s causes. She returned to New Zealand and teaching in 1876 in time to witness the passing of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1884, but unfortunately did not live to see women in New Zealand receive the vote. She died in 1885, aged forty-nine, following a serious accident.

Her tireless advocacy is celebrated by this folding chair, inscribed with "M C" for Mary Colclough, "WCTU" for the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and "Polly Plum", along with the dedication "In memory of one who loved to serve".

Folding chair dedicated to MC "Polly Plum" and WCTU, Auckland [2006.98.2] © Auckland Museum CC BY

CSI Lockdown - Results

CSI Lockdown - Results

During lockdown, we asked Aucklanders to help our Natural Sciences and Learning Teams. The Citizen Scientists Initiative, or CSI, invited people to photograph animal and plant life in their backyards and out on their daily walks, and share it to the iNaturalist platform, which allows scientists to communicate with these intrepid discoverers.

The results were inspiring. Locals uncovered a range of strange and wonderful wildlife, from the Common Bird-Dropping Spider to a type of fungi known as the 'Potato Earthball'. The green lacewing (insect), which our Curator of Entomology discovered last year, was unearthed in another part of Auckland, while another Kiwi discovered the first known record of the Myrianida pachycera, or Marine polychaete worm.

There have been 600 observations recorded of more than 323 different species. Of these, 22 percent were plants, 34 percent molluscs, 15 percent insects, four percent spiders, seven percent fungi and four percent birds. It's testament to the incredible biodiversity we can find right under our noses!

A reminder from our scientists - Autumn is a great time to spot fungi out and about. You never know what could pop up overnight!  Find out how to become a Citizen Scientist here.

Eid sa’id, Happy Eid!

Eid sa’id, Happy Eid!

With the sighting of the new crescent moon, Muslims around Aotearoa and the world have been celebrating Eid al Fitr, or the Festival of Breaking the Fast. Eid al Fitr celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the lunar month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramadan observances are being conducted differently this year, however as we emerge from lockdown, the Ramadan message of charity, empathy and compassion is one we can all embody and practice.

Auckland Museum has many beautiful objects from the Muslim world in its collections. This dish is from Iznik, a town in present day Turkey, east of Istanbul. In the 16th and 17th century it was a centre for ceramics producing beautiful and distinctive Iznik ware. Other examples of Iznik ware are currently on view in the Arts of Asia Gallery. Now that we have reopened, why not visit the Museum and take a look?

Be kind New Zealand. Kia kaha! Eid Mubarak!

Image credit: Dish, Iznik, Turkey, 16th Century, Ceramic, polychrome paint under transparent glaze. Collection of the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira K1850.

International Museum Week - Unsung Heroes

International Museum Week - Unsung Heroes

Around the world as part of International Museum Week, Museums are celebrating heroes, people who have helped to look after us all during this time. For Auckland Museum, we have an unsung hero who has been keeping our taonga safe.

A master of collection care, with more than 15 years’ working with Auckland Museum's collections, Craig undertakes the essential task of looking after our precious taonga every day while our doors are closed. As well as checking in on objects across the galleries, Craig also makes sure everything is ship shape in our collection storage rooms, of which there are more than 20!

What does he do to keep them safe? Craig sorts anything that poses a threat to the safety of our collections, from pesky pest activity to sneaky leaks, so the objects in our care can continue to tell stories of Auckland, Aotearoa and beyond for future generations to come.

Flour power

Flour power

New Zealand supermarkets have seen an unprecedented demand on flour, and the disruption to restocking has been largely due to delays in printing the paper packaging. But our flour wasn’t always packed this way. In the late 19th century and well into the 20th, New Zealand’s flour mills sold their flour in cotton sacks which were printed with the brand of the mill, like this flour bag from Partington’s Mill. From 1850 until its demolition in 1950, the Partington’s windmill was a distinctive landmark on the corner of Karangahape Road and Symonds Street. Partington’s Mill may be gone but other remnants of Auckland’s flour milling industry remain, like the Northern Roller Mills building on downtown Fort Street which has since been converted into apartments.

Image credit: Partington’s Mill Flour bag. AWMM. History collection.

Aunt Daisy's Hot Cross Bun Recipe

Aunt Daisy's Hot Cross Bun Recipe

This Hot Cross and Cold Cross Bun recipe is from Aunt Daisy's Cookery Book of Approved Recipes.

Maud Ruby Basham (30 August 1879 – 14 July 1963), professionally known as Aunt Daisy, was a well-loved New Zealand radio broadcaster. Her 30 minute daily morning show ran from 1933 to 1963. Her role was primarily to promote household products and to boost morale during World War II.

Try out this recipe and it might just boost morale in your household. Hot Cross Buns best served hot with lashings of butter.

1oz. yeast, 5oz. butter, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ level teaspoon grated nutmeg, ¼ level teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ level teaspoon ground ginger, ½ lb. currants, 1 egg, 5oz. castor sugar, 1 ½ lb. flour, ¼ lb. mixed peel, ¾ pint milk.

Put yeast into small basin. Add 1 teaspoon sugar to it, mix them together until they liquefy. Warm ¼ pt. milk and add it to them. Sift 4oz. flour into large basin. Strain in yeast mixture, and mix to smooth batter. Throw cloth over basin, stand in warm place 30 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile wash, pick over, dry the fruit, and shred peel. Sift remainder of flour into another basin with spices. Rub in the fat, add sugar and prepared fruit. Mix them well together. When yeast mixture is ready, gradually stir into it other prepared ingredients, adding also beaten egg and remainder if milk made warm. Mix them al together, beat well. Then throw cloth over basin, put mixture in warm place to rise until it swells to double its bulk. Will take about 1 ½ hour. When dough is ready, turn on to floured board and divide into 36 portions. Work each portion in smooth bun shape. Place buns on lightly greased and floured baking sheets, leaving space between each to allow to rise. Mark a cross on buns. Cover buns lightly with a cloth and stand in warm place for 20mins or until they are double their size. Put them in fairly hot oven to bake. They will take about 20 mins to cook.

For Glaze for Hot Cross Buns: 1 dessertspoon castor sugar, 2 dessertspoons milk.
Icing for Cold Cross Buns: 6oz, icing sugar, about 2 dessertspoons boiling water.

Image Credit: Aunt Daisy’s cookery book of approved recipes, 1934. AWMM. TX725.N5 DAI.

Where does the Good in Good Friday originate?

Where does the Good in Good Friday originate?

Good Friday is the day when Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus, who they believe sacrificed his life as atonement for all sin. In ancient Rome, the form of execution was crucifixion, where the victim's hands and feet were bound and nailed to a cross, as depicted on the enamel missal cover from the Museum's Applied Arts and Design collection.

There are various sources that explain why the word 'good' is used to describe a sorrowful event; some speculate it to be a corruption of 'God's Friday,' others suggest that 'good' denotes the day as a holy day. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word 'good' within Christian context is used as an adjective to designate a day on which a religious observation is held.

Image credit: Missal Cover, Crucifixion of Christ rendered in champlevé enamel, Limoges, France, 13th Century. Auckland War Memorial Museum, M133, 1944.83.

Easter egg symbolism

Easter egg symbolism

Since ancient times, the egg has been seen as a symbol of life and rebirth. In Christianity, the egg became associated with Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection and became a symbol of Easter. The tradition of Easter eggs originated in early Mesopotamia, where chicken eggs were dyed red in memory of the blood Christ shed when he was crucified. Although egg dyeing is still a popular activity for kids and adults alike during Easter, modern alternatives includes chocolate eggs and candy filled in egg-shaped containers - while the Russian imperial family had jewelled Easter eggs for them by the House of Fabergé from 1885 to 1916.

Image credit: Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, gift of Mr Harry S Dadley, 1934.316, K3122, 20734.