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History of the Auckland Museum Institute

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History of the Auckland Museum Institute

The Auckland Institute dates back to 1867 and in 1868  took over management of the fledging Auckland Museum and changed its name to Auckland Institute and Museum.

At the same time the Royal Society of New Zealand was established and the Institute became a regional branch of the Royal Society, a role it still fulfills.

The tragic loss of so many young men and women during the First World War prompted Aucklanders to look at building a war memorial museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum was opened in 1929 and added to in 1966 to commemorate the later wars. The governing body remained the Auckland Institute and Museum until the Auckland War Memorial Museum Act 1996 saw the formation of the Auckland Museum Trust Board. Today, the Institute Council makes four appointments to the Trust Board but otherwise plays no part in the governance of the Museum.

Timetable of Auckland Museum Institute History

October 1852
The Auckland Museum formed.

November 1867
At a public meeting it was resolved “that all present at this meeting form themselves in a Society to be called the ‘Auckland Philosophical Society’.

March 1868
A further meeting resolved “that the name of the Society be altered to the Auckland Institute”.

May 1868
The first monthly meeting of the Institute was on the 4th May 1868 and the first paper read was by T. Kirk, “'On the Botany of the northern part of the North Island'”. At the same meeting a resolution in favour of incorporation with the newly formed New Zealand Institute was unanimously agreed to.

Mr T. Kirk appointed Assistant Secretary of the Institute and Curator of the Museum.

January 1869
The Institute wrote to the then Trustees of the Auckland Museum, “communicating the fact of the incorporation of the Institute and requesting them to take steps for the transfer of the Museum.” In October 1869 the transfer of the Museum to the Institute was made by the Superintendent “on a guarantee being given for the due preservation of its contents and the admission of the public.”

The combined name “Auckland Institute and Museum” was first used in the Annual Report of 1880-81.

Thomas Cheeseman appointed secretary and curator.

Sir Gilbert Archey director during this time.

The Institute seal appears about 1927-28 and was probably the work of Gilbert Archey (
Māori motifs etc). Other possible designers / co-designers were A. W. B. Powell or L. T. Griffin. The motto Whaowhia means “filled” as a treasure house is filled or a mind should be stored with knowledge.

In 1967 the Museum staff numbered 45, including the Director E.G. Turbott, the Assistant Director A. W. B. Powell, 6 curators, a librarian, two cleaners, nine attendants and three coffee lounge staff.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum Act 1996 came into being, separating the Institute from governance of the Museum and establishing the Institute as a ‘body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal’.

1996 - Today

The Auckland Museum Insitute is now charged with the support of the Museum and Museum Trust Board by providing advocacy, promoting the use and understanding of the Museum's collections and activities and supporting the function of the War Memorial aspect of the Museum.

Since 1996, it has focused on its historic roles as 'Learned Society', membership body for Auckland Museum, operating Friends of the Auckland Museum, and appointing body for four Museum Trust Board members.  The Learned Society function is described as promotion of the research, appreciation and popularisation of science, literature and history via such activities as lectures, Museum tours, field trips and publications, and also affiliation to other bodies like the Royal Society of New Zealand.