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


Settling in at the Petone Settlers Museum

Tēnā koutou katoa, Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa – hello there, it’s wonderful to meet you all!

Your Community Curator at Petone Settlers Museum

With much happiness I pause to reflect on the whirlwind beginning of starting at The Petone Settlers Museum as Community Curator. I’m coming up on two months now, and already we’ve had one exhibition change and three others scheduled before December (watch this space).

I inherited these projects and it’s been a real team effort that we’re somewhat on track with producing and installing them before the end of the year! It has been amazing to work closely with the Dowse exhibitions team, but also with the Petone Library, the Hutt City Council, with other local museums (hello Wellington Museum), archives and libraries, not to mention the local community.


The Hall of Memories in it’s finest form

Market gardens, hotel draws and flax flowers

With our next exhibition change-over I’ve been working closely with the Foon family to help tell the story of their kaumatua William Yan Foon and the Chinese market gardens of the Hutt circa 1880s-1940s. I’m excited to tell a story linking a summer dress to a Petone grandfather who found tranquillity amongst his vegetables.

A few weeks ago we installed ‘the Grand Nash’ an exhibition about the well-known Grand National Hotel, a building which was saved from demolition in 1995 and moved over to Jackson Street from its original spot near the entrance to Petone.  Come take a peek in the ‘hotel draw’ to see some objects of desire, perhaps the treasures of a wealthy visitor to the hotel in its early days.

20170917_114807Time runs away each week and I sprint to catch it. Already the pool of new people and faces is growing as I head out and about to meet and plan new projects and events for PSM. We ran a weaving workshop for Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori which was lovely and attracted fifteen happy people. We were lucky to have a guest teacher leading us through the creation of a ‘posy of putiputi’ and I’ve since been practising my skills.

Events these school holidays…

School holidays have begun!  To help keep the kids busy and brains buzzing, we are hosting the Girl Guides project – ‘Fly the Flag for Gender Equality’.  You can drop in, and create your own flag during the month of October.

And you are all invited to create a frame with our ‘frame it up’ activity, Thursday 12th Oct, with two sessions running at 10:15 and 11:30.  Bookings essential…

There’s much more in the pipeline, with pickles and parties being brewed up as I type.  And we have two more changes in the museum about to happen with – ‘Prices Folly’ and ‘Bodgies and Widgies’ lined-up. Stay tuned!


Ngā mihi mahana,


Arawhetu Berdinner

Do You Remember the Happiness Club?

Petone Settlers Museum Community Curator, Jen Boland, has created an accessible programme of events that caters for both the general public and niche groups. Jen’s new events and activity programme is being promoted under the moniker of The Happiness Club.


The name comes from the original ‘Petone Happiness Club’, which ran from 1950-54, affiliated with the Radio Station 2ZB. The museum received a donation of a white table cloth embroidered with four bluebirds, 100-odd signatures and two pins pertaining to the club.

“Everything about it was just so delightful, the name in particular suggesting people coming together and being happy. We just had to reignite it,” she says. The new Happiness Club will also be about bringing people together and having fun. “Petone Settlers Museum is a place that holds memories. We want it to also create memories and friendships through a community-focused and eclectic public programme,” says Jen.

Coming up, there’s a Christmas market, Christmas carols with Wilford School, still-life drawing classes, storytelling and a ‘Sea Shanties Sing-a-long’.

“We are also in discussions with local retirement homes and the Hearing Association about how we can cater for their communities, and we are excited to be installing braille signage on the interactive components of our exhibitions.”

If you know more about the original 1950s Petone Happiness Club, or have ideas for events that you would like to join in with, get in touch with Jen:

Flotsam & Jetsam & Sons

Petone Settlers 175th Anniversary

Conrad Coon (Left) and Ed van Son, Petone Settlers 175th Anniversary on the Petone Foreshore, Lower Hutt, New Zealand on Sunday 19 January 2015. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

Curio Collectors Est 1887

Captain Flotsam and First Mate Jetsam sailed the seas to New Zealand in the year 1886.

They briefly made Wellington their home but decided that Foxton was the place they wanted to lay their foundations. So it was with great haste that they boarded an iron steamer named “Tui” with all their gathered possessions, ready to depart on their journey.

As they set forth to leave Wellington and the harbour heads came into sight, beneath the hull there came a terrible lurch. Their boat had struck Barrett’s Reef, as so many had before and so many would after.

As the iron steamer went down, Jetsam frantically threw their treasures from around the world into a Kauri clipper. Then he and Captain Flotsam clambered aboard to row for shore.

With misfortune still against them, the weight of all the treasure became too much for the little clipper and she too began to sink.

With Petone shore in sight the pair leapt from the boat and made a swim for shore leaving it all to the perils of the sea. Treasures washed from the boat as it sank.

The sands quickly submerged everything and both Flotsam and Jetsam were too exhausted to doing anything about recovering their goods and moved on.

Before they died they told their children of the lost treasures, those children told their children and the story of Flotsam and Jetsam’s treasure was passed on down through the generations.

Petone Settlers 175th Anniversary

Conrad Coon, Petone Settlers 175th Anniversary on the Petone Foreshore, Lower Hutt, New Zealand on Sunday 19 January 2015. Photo by Masanori Udagawa.

In the winter of 1970 a baby was born. He was the great-grandson of Captain Flotsam. People called him Flot.

Soon after, the great-grandson of First Mate Jetsam was born. His friends called him Jet.

Flot and Jet became friends and one day they decided (because metal detectors had been invented) to find their families’ treasures. They got their shovels, sifters, a tent, and two of the best metal detectors money could buy.

At first light they got down to the beach, they set up their tent, they got their shovels and buckets, then realised there was too much work for two men to do alone.

They needed help.

They need you.

So get down to Petone Beach, outside the Settlers Museum, and be part of history as Flotsam and Jetsam unearth the treasure buried below.

Help them find their treasure this Monday, 25th January, from 11am on Petone beach front, as part of the our contribution to the  Our Story festival. We’ll have dress ups and a photobooth, old fashioned games and plenty more! And it’s the last chance to see the museum before we close down for two months to install our NEW EXHIBITIONS… 

Time travel

On Saturday visitors to the museum were able to travel through time.


Well, perhaps not actual time travel.

But with the aid of our friends at the Amazing Travelling Photo Booth we offered all visitors during Petone Winter Carnival the chance to be photographed in front of a large picture of Jackson Street from the 1920s.


There were some amazing outfits,

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some exceptional posing,


and even Man’s Best Friend got into the carnival spirit.


For some people carnival is a time to get cosy with the people  you love,


while other hardy souls brave the Mitre 10 MEGA Polar Plunge for a wintery harbour swim.





Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate Petone with us.

Emma Bugden, Senior Curator 

Jackson Street

Hello there!

Claire Folster outside  129 Jackson Street, formerly Leibezeit's Novelty Store, now Village Beads

Claire Folster outside 129 Jackson Street, formerly Leibezeit’s Novelty Store, now Village Beads

I am a current intern working with Emma for the Petone Settlers Museum. My name is Claire Folster and I am in the third year of a BA majoring in Art History and Classical Studies. I am doing a BA internship paper through Victoria which allowed me to get this great opportunity. Over the past month or so, I have been researching Jackson Street to help with a refurbishment of PSM, and I have really been astounded by all the history. I didn’t know much about Jackson Street when I started, but it really is a great little area, with some great stories.

Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor, 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor, 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

Jackson Street was established in the 19th century, due to a growing community in Petone. It first begun with some general stores, a butchery, some fruiterers, and soon grew immensely. Factories lined the end of the street, with a bustling centre closer to the railway station. Friends would come to Jackson Street and shop and socialise together outside long standing stores, like Liebezeits. In 1882 Petone’s first school opened where the historical jail and Café Chavi is now. By the 1900s Jackson Street was the hub of commercial life in the Hutt Valley. With council chambers built on the street in 1903, the street had reached its peak of importance.

Historical Police Station, Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

Historical Police Station, Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor, 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

After cheap public transport became available in the 1950s Jackson Street saw a decline in patrons. Employers began to close down long standing factories and iconic shops (like Liebezeits) were forced to close. The council chambers were demolished and Jackson Street was in a bad place – until the 1980s, when historical buildings began to be preserved. The Jackson Street Programme was formed and buildings began to be restored. Liebezeits became Village Beads, and the old Grand Theatre becoming apartments and shops.

Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor, 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

Jackson Street, photographer Toni Taylor, 2014. Collection of the Petone Settlers Museum.

The plaques placed outside each historical building make available, for everyone to read, the history of the street – which is important to a town like Petone. I am glad to see some of the historic buildings, which had been falling into disrepair, restored. They give Jackson Street a lot of character, I think, and make it more of a destination to visit.

Claire Folster, Hutt City Museums Intern

His name be not forgotten: George Shackleton Hooper (1894 – 1916)

Like many museums we hold varying degrees of information about our collection items. Some objects we have a great deal of knowledge about while others we have much less.

The photos and artefacts relating to George Shackleton Hooper, a Petone man killed at the battle of The Somme in WWI, is one such collection. We knew that some of the items had been donated to the museum in 1977 by a Mrs F Jones, but had no further information.

George Shackleton Hooper

This photo shows George in his soldier’s uniform prior to setting out from Wellington harbour to fight for his country. We hold a number of other objects that relate to George, including his medals and the official notification of his death. When we decided to do an exhibition display to honour George for Anzac Day this year, as part of our commitment to telling local stories of the war, we felt strongly it was important we find out more about George, his life and his family.


Through our colleagues at the Petone Heritage Centre we discovered photographs of George as a child. This image is of George at three years old, taken by the photographer William Henry Scott Kinsey, from the Petone Library collection.

Lynda Battah outside the Len Hooper Pharmacy

Again with the help of our colleagues we also tracked down his great niece Lynda Battah (nee Hooper). Lynda runs the Len Hooper Pharmacy in Epuni,originally established by her Dad, who has since passed away.

Hooper family records_owned by Lynda Battah

It was wonderful to meet with Lynda and hear more about the Hooper family. Lynda has a collection of family photographs, letters and a detailed family tree which has substantially added to our knowledge.

We discovered that F Jones was Florence, George’s sister, who passed away in 1982, five years after she gifted George’s memorabilia to the museum. Through Lynda we have learnt how the family came to be in Petone and about their lives. A letter from Florence recalled growing up in a close-knit family who enjoyed simple pleasures such as riding bikes and swimming off Petone wharf. Florence wrote:

“In the evening we usually sat around the large kitchen table with the usual games, Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, but always with a warning from my mother if an earthquake comes, hold the lamp so it will not fall over.”

Lynda’s Dad Len had shown interest in learning more about George and in 1984 he wrote a letter requesting George’s military records, stating:

“Since a child I have heard of ‘Uncle George who was killed in the war’. It would be satisfying to have a more detailed and accurate knowledge of him.”

It has been very rewarding to fill in our gaps in our knowledge and further the connections between the museum and the Hoopers.

Our exhibition display on George Shackleton Hooper opens at the museum tomorrow, April 21, we hope you can check it out.

Emma Bugden, Senior Curator

Anzac flags are flying

Petone has a strong connection to WWI history, with local industry providing support and local men going to serve, including 120 men who never came home.

Preparations are underway all around New Zealand for the upcoming Anzac Day commemorations, which marks 100 years since the Gallipoli campaign. We’re about to install a new Anzac display at the museum tomorrow and we have a special flag exhibition on show already, in partnership with our good neighbours,  the Jackson Street Programme.

The very first public commemoration of Anzac Day in New Zealand was held at 3.30pm April 25th, 1916 at the Petone Railway Station. The day was attended by government and was marked by a special flag ceremony at the suggestion of railwaymen in Hornsby, New South Wales, who wanted to exchange flags with a New Zealand railway depot to symbolise the comradeship between New Zealand and Australian railwaymen at Gallipoli. The flagpole was made from a combination of kauri and Australian hardwood to reflect the coming together of two countries.


To mark the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli and Petone’s important flagpole, four local schools, St Augustine’s Scouts and the local Girl Guides were invited by the Jackson Street Programme to design a contemporary Anzac flag.  Five winning designs are now flying in Jackson Street.

Jackson Street flag 1

Jackson Street flag 2

Over 100 beautiful design entries were submitted in total and we are displaying these at the museum.

Crowd photo 12 25 3 15

When the display was installed we hosted a little award ceremony for the children and their families.

Leonie speaking 25 3 15

The Mayor of Lower Hutt was a guest speaker, along with a local returned serviceman and Leonie from the Jackson Street Programme.

Winners ANZAC Day Flags

Here’s our winners in front of their amazing entries.

Congratulations to all the children who took part and a big thank you to the Jackson Street Programme for inviting us to be part of this project.

 Emma Bugden, Senior Curator

(Photos from the Jackson Street Programme).

Visitor of the Week: Mr and Mrs Beattie

It’s the diamond (75th) anniversary of the opening of our building this year, so we’ve got anniversaries on our mind. Therefore I was delighted to find out it is Helen and Peter Beattie’s 58th wedding anniversary today, and thought it was appropriate we do a little post on them.


Helen was born and raised in Petone and they have lived here together all their married life. For the last three years Helen has sadly had to live away from home in care, due to her health, but Helen and Peter still see each other all the time and have a regular Sunday date to visit the museum. That’s right, they visit us every Sunday, rain or shine! Please join us in congratulating them on 58 years of togetherness and we look forward to seeing them again next weekend.

Emma Bugden, Senior Curator

Letters to the past

We’ve been a bit quiet around these parts lately, but it’s been all go behind the scenes. Research is well underway for an upcoming exhibition refresh at the museum. And we want to hear from you! There’ll be plenty of opportunities to share your ideas and memories with us as we continue to develop the museum. We’ll be calling out for specific stories soon, but feel free to email us at to share your thoughts.


As part of our research we held an exhibition recently at our other museum. Called Dear Nostalgia, it featured items from the Settlers Museum collection in tableau evoking environments from the nursery to the parlour to the kitchen.



We wanted to elicit memories and stories from our visitors so we installed a “letterbox to the past”.

nostalgia_12_cropped larger

The response was overwhelming and we’ve been enjoying reading through the comments.

Wide shot

Many of the stories recalled people’s own connections with the objects displayed:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 13_cropped

“Red Hornby train engine – my brothers used to have a red one and a green one. They sometimes let me (a girl) play with them.”

Dear Nostalgia postcard 8_cropped

“The toaster in the kitchen reminded me of one in my apartment in Berlin from the DDR. But because it required taking the toast out yourself (unlike the way it automatically springs up in most toasters today) – it brings up the smell of burnt toast (and great bread).”

Memories were also evoked of family members, especially those who are no longer around:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 10_cropped

“The prams… they remind me of my Great-Grandmother. They make me smile and also a bit sad because I didn’t know her that well. She was a brilliant woman. I have fond memories of her…”

Dear Nostalgia postcard 11_cropped

“I have just finished cleaning out my late 102 year old uncle’s house where nothing new had entered (except a frig) since 1950. The exhibition has brought it all back.” – Helen Christie

Some of our correspondents looked back at the past rather wistfully:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 3_cropped

“A plastic and plywood free life seems simpler and charming, though on the other hand, its resource-intensive life leads us to necessitate the use of oil and using composites of lower-grade wood and building materials. And here we are…” – Ben

Dear Nostalgia postcard 4_cropped

“In 50 or 60 years time would we find any 2014 items for a similar display or does the throwaway nature of 2014 preclude the old?”

While others were grateful to be in the present:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 1_cropped

“Wow I’m glad I didn’t live way back then”. – Ellen, age six

The emotions expressed  were moving to read:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 19_cropped

“Seeing my mother’s name on the tablecloth that was made by the Petone Happiness Club brought me a smile”. – Mark Sifflett

Dear Nostalgia postcard 20_cropped

“I now have tears in my eyes. This is so beautiful. Thank you.”

And here’s one that gave me a little chuckle:

Dear Nostalgia postcard 16_cropped

“I saw a top hat and it reminded me of Peter Pan. I am nine and I would really like a top hat.”

A subtle hint for Christmas perhaps?

A huge thank you to all the people who contributed their stories – we feel so honoured to receive them. Isn’t it extraordinary how objects have the power to unlock our hearts?

Emma Bugden, Senior Curator