Meteorites, Transformers and cloaks made from rats

What does a dog-skin cloak, a meteorite, a missing face towel possibly belonging to King Edward VII, the oldest picture of New Plymouth and a Transformer all have in common?

They are just some of the many weird and wonderful objects that are part of a major new exhibition at NPDC’s Puke Ariki looking back on a century of collections and collecting.

The exhibition opened on April 6 in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery and is called Whare Kahurangi: 100 Years of Collecting.

Not only does it feature objects from the Museum’s storerooms but also from private collectors from around Taranaki.

Puke Ariki youth learning officer Alice Franklin with her Living Dead Dolls, which feature among the odd entities in Whare Kahurangi: 100 Years of Collecting.

Puke Ariki acting director Colleen Mullin says the exhibition has been a century in the making.

“NPDC’s Puke Ariki is continuing what the Taranaki Museum started when it opened in 1919 – we’re combining the historical with the high-tech, the entertaining with the educational, and we look to forever preserve the stories of the past and present for the visitors of the future.”

Whare Kahurangi means house of treasured possessions and curator Chanelle Carrick says the exhibition celebrates everyone who has contributed to the museum over the past century, from the hundreds of generous donors to the visitors who come from all over the world.

“The exhibition explores the diverse history of our region and we hope that it will inspire people to keep recording and sharing their stories for future generations,” she says.

“Puke Ariki is such a unique place and we hope this exhibition will instil a sense of pride in what our museum and libraries are today.”

The exhibition includes interactive experiences from placing your own treasured possession into the Cabinet of Curiosities, to voting on an ethical dilemma – should the museum open the sealed pages of a letter book dated 1841?

Puke Ariki issued a call last year for people to come forward with objects for Whare Kahurangi and the response was fantastic with a number of items on-loan for the exhibition.

Whare Kahurangi fast facts:

  • The exhibition runs in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery until October 6.
  • The Taranaki Museum first opened its doors in 1919 on August 28 with the foundation gift of Māori taonga by William Henry Skinner.
  • Whare Kahurangi features a number of items from the Skinner Collection.
  • The oldest food item is a jar of preserved plums from 1900.
  • As well as the dog-skin cloak, there’s a rat-skin cape made by possum trapper Mike Murphy in the 1930s.
  • Vintage computers give visitors the chance to programme a ZX Spectrum from the 1980s.
  • The exhibition includes oral histories, music clips and interviews.
  • Whare Kahurangi was curated in-house and many of Puke Ariki’s staff have contributed to the exhibition.