Down the rabbit hole with Alice

Kia ora!

I’m Alice Jackson, the new Petone Settlers Museum intern. I moved to Wellington last year to start my Masters at Victoria University after completing my undergrad and honours in Art History at the University of Otago. I’m passionate about inclusivity and accessibility, the environment and music.

I’m at Petone Settlers Museum as the final step in my Masters of Museum and Heritage Practice. Soon, I’ll be starting in the museum’s stores, cataloging and re-enlivening the taonga. I’ll be sharing their interesting stories on this blog, I’m super excited!


I’m ready for a new adventure – as the owners of these bags from the Petone Settler’s Museum stores were.

There are so many local stories to tell, and new displays in development. Our newest display outlines an iconic Petone building – The Grand National Hotel. Many locals will remember the Grand Nash’ and have stories to tell on their next visit. It is a slice of history all wrapped up in a well-known local building.

Our upcoming displays explore special personal stories, such as that of ‘naturalised’ Petone resident William Yan Foon. Foon immigrated from San Sin, Hong Kong at the age of 19, arriving in Petone in the 1890s where he worked as a market gardener and greengrocer. We loved talking to William’s descendants, and can’t wait to share this story with you.


Petone Settlers Museum’s new Community Curator Arawhetu, with a visitor discussing the Grand Nash’.

We will be displaying a dress from Laurie Foon’s eco clothing label Starfish. Laurie is the great granddaughter of William Yan Foon. The Starfish 2008 summer collection titled ‘The Garden of Perfect Happiness’ was inspired by Laurie’s great grandfather’s market garden and all the happy time he spent there. The display may even inspire you to create your own garden of perfect happiness.

Hutt residents, for help finding your local community gardens check this list.

I didn’t know much about Starfish before starting the research for this exhibit, but the more I learned the sadder I became about the label’s closure. What really interests me about Starfish is Laurie Foon’s early adoption of eco-friendly, sustainable and traceable practices. It seems that even now some of these concepts are just filtering through to the fashion world so 24 years ago when Laurie Foon started Starfish those ideas must have been ground breaking. Laurie continues to champion sustainable practice in her current role as the Wellington region Coordinator for the Sustainable Business Network and also as founder of B-Side Stories, a radio-podcast on Wellington Access Radio 106.1 FM that tells the stories of the unsung heroes of Wellington. B-Side Stories plays live every Tuesday from 5-6 pm and you can listen online.

Living in Petone

One of our wonderful visitors enjoying a rest from the busy Petone life.

Another display in development will explore a subculture popular in the 1950s that caused quite a stir about the Hutt; Bodgies and Widgies. The subculture was made infamous because of the damning 1954 Mazengarb report into juvenile delinquency that blamed the perceived promiscuity of teens on working mothers, the availability of contraception and girls ‘enticing men to have sex’ (I don’t want to say the whole report is victim blaming, but…). The display presents a local perspective on the subculture. I don’t want to give too much away but I hope that gives an intriguing glimpse into an interesting moment of history.

The other display-change planned for the museum is ‘Price’s Folly’ – another local Petone building with an eventful life. Price’s Folly has cycled from being a family home, to a school and back to being a residence once more.

These last two display changes are a wee way away so best to watch this space for updates on display-changes and my internship progress. In the meantime get down to Petone Settlers Museum and check out The Grand Nash’ and the new window interactive – ‘A View Into Te Ao Māori!


Name what you see from our window! A visitor using the newly installed window interactive.

As I said, keep your eyes open and I’ll be about with another update soon!

Ngā mihi mahana


Alice Jackson

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