The Petone Settlers Museum Te Whare Whakaaro occupies one of New Zealand’s most significant memorial buildings—the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial. The memorial was built to commemorate the arrival of the first British immigrants to Pito-one’s shores in 1840.
2.30pm, Saturday 25th July, Petone Settlers Museum
Hats off to Hills Hats! Join the Hills Hats factory family for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to celebrate Petone Settlers Museum’s newest exhibition, Enter the Hatmosphere.
Small but mighty, this little hat factory designs and manufactures hats for Fat Freddy’s Drop and Lady Gaga, as well as New Zealand Police, Air New Zealand and theAll Blacks.
Dress up for the occasion in your favourite hat and raise a cuppa to 70 years of Hills Hats as part of Petone’s vibrant business district. With a selection of weird and wonderful headwear to try on, be ready to discover a new side of yourself, meet the Hills Hats factory family and even glimpse a rare sighting of Petone’s resident super-hero, Hatman!
This week we’re going behind the scenes of the Petone Settlers Museum Collection store.
At Petone Settlers Museum, we collect objects that tell the stories of our wonderful little city, objects that express its personality and that of the community. To care for these objects, we use a variety of processes and techniques.
There are many tricks to maintaining a happy and healthy collection: we use climate control to ensure objects remain at stable temperature and humidity levels; appropriate packing materials to ensure objects are supported and stored using materials that won’t damage their integrity; handling techniques to move objects around; condition reporting and paying close attention to the physical aspects of objects that may require some extra work in the future. This is but a small selection of tasks Collection Managers undertake regularly in their roles as kaitiaki; guardians and stewards of taonga and collections.
We have some images of work we’ve done in the past and some shots of the store itself; hopefully these give you an idea of what our little gem looks and feels like.
A safe home for every object
Housing, or storing, objects correctly is a big part of collection management. This is what keeps the objects safe, clean and away from gremlins that might damage them.
There are different methods and materials used to house different kinds of objects; this photo shows one way of housing textiles, in this case, a crocheted shawl. You can see a skinny white sausage form toward the top of the photo; this is acid-free tissue that’s been rolled into a sausage shape to keep the shawl from folding along that line. Tissue is also used to interleave between layers of fabric, preventing the layers from touching one another and sticking together.
Keeping an eye on the condition
Condition reporting is another process integral to the art of collection care. The condition of an object as it enters a collection is important information; it helps to benchmark the physical properties and imperfections of the object and gives a point from which to work from in the future.
These photos show different aspects of a miniature book, which was in a tired and heavily used state when it entered our collection. You can see there are some quite deep gouges running down the front of the cover, a large chip at the bottom right corner and a small ding on the upper right corner. There has also been some damage to the pages at the upper right corner. Taking multiple, often close-up, photographs is one of the best ways of documenting an object’s condition – we keep an eye on these details, and do conservation work when needed.
Getting our photography right
It’s also imperative the photos taken are of a good quality – without clear images it can be difficult to identify objects, difficult to track potential deterioration, and difficult to identify subjects. Above are two images of the same silver locket containing the photo of a man. You can probably tell one photo is significantly better quality than the other, making it easier to ‘read’ the object.
It is also easier to see the image of the man, making it more likely we can identify him if his name isn’t given with the object’s paperwork (in this case, his name was given, and we know he is Mitchell Denby, a foreman of the Petone Woollen Mills in the late 1800s). This photo also shows the colours of the object and small imperfections more clearly, giving a more accurate representation of the actual object.
Organise, categorise, itemise
Another fun task Collection Managers get to do is document, photograph and record large groups of objects that come in a bit jumbled and objects that aren’t well taken care of. Works on paper, wallpaper and fragile textiles are common in social history collections like ours. Rolls of wallpaper are particularly tricky beasties; as wallpaper is not often stored flat, the natural contour of the paper makes it difficult to store – do you flatten it, and have the patterned side visible, but potentially damage the fibers by straightening them out? Or do you leave it rolled, and risk not being able to unroll it in the future, as the fibers will have become brittle over time? Often conservators specializing in the care of paper are called in to deal with these.
Large boxes of random objects are also often left to museums; in attempts to preserve history and the lives of loved ones, people donate objects they believe will cared for by a museum. And, if the objects fit within collection policy, we do love to receive them. Because Petone’s history is so linked to its industrial past, tobacco, Unilever, Gear Meat and Griffin’s objects frequently find their way to us. As is true of most collections, we have an overflow of fascinating objects like these cigarette packets. Unfortunately, these arrived somewhat unceremoniously and it took a bit of detecting to sort, document and enter the records into our collection management system.
Have you been struggling to find things to do over the past couple of months? It’s had us thinking about what people would’ve done in the past to keep themselves occupied, if they were unable to leave their homes for weeks on end. Our collection has tossed up some interesting examples of pastimes…
Sewing and embroidery
Sewing and embroidery would’ve been a favourite among mothers and their young daughters. A process requiring skill and dexterity, sewing with a sewing machine was both educational and useful. Spinning wheels, used for spinning thread or yarn from fibres, were in use around the turn of the 20th century and again would’ve been useful in everyday life.
Many people nowadays make their own clothes and do their own alterations or repairs. Sewing machines today have many more functions than those of the 1900s, so there’s a lot to learn and practice. Could be an idea during lockdown to get your socks darned or your jeans taken up…
Stamp collecting was also popular in the past; receiving letters in the post meant envelopes with stamps, stamps that could be cut out and kept in an album. Philately, the study of stamps and postal history, is still popular today. Of course, letter-writing is rare these days, and stamps are few and far between, but occasionally an interesting or particularly pretty stamp turns up.
Postcards are still used frequently today and have some amazing images of scenery and attractions from their respective destinations. Letter cards, definitely not that common now, were also used in written communications. I often find myself fighting the urge to collect things like this, stamps, coins, postcards, etc.!
Collecting postcards and cigarette cards
Our collection has some amazing examples of postcard collecting; can you believe that there were albums made for collecting postcards? Albums were actually available for all sorts of things, stamps, cigarette cards, coins, autographs, postcards, you name it. Above are images of one of our albums, containing cigarette cards from around the 1920s.
It’s fascinating to think about what people kept and collected over 100 years ago, and what we collect now. Do you have a stash of objects hidden away at your place? Or do you want to start collecting something that’s special to you? We say, give it a go!
Joining a club
Or, now that we’re allowed out and about again, you might think about joining a club. Our collection has an array of cups, trophies, medals and other sporting ephemera from groups that used to operate in Petone and the wider Hutt Valley; it’s difficult to choose which club I would go for. Rowing was, and continues to be, very popular. We also have the classic tennis, rugby and swimming clubs, as well as intriguing ones like roller skating and playing the Irish Hornpipe.
Humans are naturally social creatures; being in lockdown has been hard for a lot of people, and many are making the most of seeing friends and family again. Why not add a club to that list and join a local organisation! Or start your own collection of things if you’d rather remain somewhat unhindered by your fellow humans…
We hope everyone is staying safe and well now we’re out of our bubbles. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again when we reopen next Wednesday 27 May!
In my last post, I talked about the beauty and variety of social history collections. This week I want to delve into the magical world of nostalgia.
Nostalgia, yearning for the past, is a tricky beast. It’s a kind of in-between state where one might long for things from their own past, things they remember and things they used to do, or one might long for a piece of history they weren’t alive to experience. There’s a certain romance attached to the past; we look back and wish things were the same now.
I sometimes find myself thinking about past eras, wondering if I would be the same person back then as I am now, or if I’d be completely different. I’ve also always loved the aesthetic appeal of the past: the structure and grace of the mid to late 1800s, the loosening of the rules and expression of personality in the 1920s, the proliferation of ‘freedom’ in the 1960s, the wild and slightly aggressive neon of the 1980s.
The photos I’ve found for this blog represent the nostalgia of Petone and Lower Hutt, some of the past versions of our city. They speak of a time gone by, a time that many of us remember fondly and perhaps even wish we could return to. Take a walk down memory lane with these snapshots of our past.
The talkies, jazz, and the Udys
When you think of the 1920s, most people probably think glitz and glam, flappers and gangsters. But this decade was much like any other; there were ‘normal’ people going about their lives, talking films (“talkies”) were taking off, and ladies’ dresses began to show a little more ankle than in previous years. Where a lot of people think The Great Gatsby, I think of the less outrageous version of the 1920s. I think of cloche hats, short hairstyles, going to the movies for the first time, listening to jazz music over the radio, and going to the beach.
These photos show Muriel Udy and her younger sister Joyce in around 1920. The photos recall some of these trends: the short hair, the sensible yet freeing clothing, going to school, domestic architecture that is now a distinctly Petone feature. Muriel’s white dress is a classic ‘20s silhouette, the girls’ awkward poses suggest they weren’t comfortable in front of the camera, and the buildings behind them show the Victorian architecture that was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The smiles and tone of the photos speak of enjoyment and a kind of teenage whimsy.
At this point in time the Udy family had been in Petone for three generations and was well-established here. They arrived in Petone in February of 1840 when Hart Udy reached our shores onboard the ship Roxburgh. Walter James Udy, Hart’s son, was born in Lower Hutt in 1865 and had seven children with his wife Annie. Two of whom feature in these photos: Muriel (born 1902) and Joyce (born 1905). Muriel would’ve been about 18 when these were taken.
This photo taken by Ans Westra in 1962 is one of a series of images taken of teenagers attending a social gathering at Taita Community Hall. It captures two young men in the midst of a performance and brings to mind many things: the vibrancy of youth, the emphasis on these sorts of gatherings at the time, the fashion of the mid 20th century, and the nervousness of attending one’s first disco or party.
Not only does the image speak of life in the 1960s, it illustrates what we thought was important back then, what we put emphasis on to document. It seems that a lot of photography during this time was focused on the everyday, not the mundane, but the ordinary things people did not just for enjoyment but also for necessity. Ans Westra began working as a freelance documentary photographer in 1962; this work is likely one of the earliest she took in this role and perfectly captures what life was like for teens in Taita in the 1960s.
Something we can probably all relate to is the classic Kiwi school photo. I love looking through and identifying myself, my friends and my teachers. This one is of Petone West School students in the late 1960s and, to me, represents the quintessential school photo; kids arranged in tiers, teacher standing beside them. I remember my own classes preparing for these photos, all being told to put our knees together and cross our hands in our laps. It’s lovely to see that the format hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years!
It’s easy to spot the 1960s fashion here too: long white socks, woollen jumpers with shirt collars sticking out, headbands and massive fringes. Some of which seem to be back in vogue now… For me, this image typifies the school photo and represents a period in time that is somehow the same for every person going through the NZ education system and also totally different for each individual, and also a million worlds away from the present day.
Well folks, I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane and I hope I’ve been able to spark a bit of nostalgia in you. I know what I’ll be doing when lockdown ends: getting into my mum’s collection of family photos. Why not get out your own albums, pull out your old toys and games, find your old journals and explore your past with the people in your bubble?
One of the things I love most about working with museum collections is the weird stuff you come across; sometimes these things have accompanying records that tell you what they are, sometimes you have to do some investigating and sometimes you just have to guess.
The beauty of social history collections like Petone Settlers Museum is that they usually contain a huge variety of objects and media; our collection has everything from old wedding dresses and toys, to sporting memorabilia (did you know that Petone has been home to 30 All Blacks*?) and furniture, as well as photos, old industry products and machinery, and prints and maps. So you’re guaranteed to find many weird and wonderful things.
The itchy & scratchy wool togs
Another one of my more random finds is this pair of men’s woollen swimming trunks. Yes… woollen. They are maroon machine-knitted and sewn trunks, featuring a rather fancy a woven belt threaded through fabric loops at the waist and a false front skirt. The belt is fastened by a two piece metal clasp at the centre front and has a length adjusting buckle on the front right side. This pair has a woven ‘Pacific’ label, featuring a green fern motif is stitched to the front left leg, however many similar pairs were produced in Petone and feature the classic “Petone” stitched logo like that on the plaque above.
As swimming and beach-going became a more public activity in the 19th century, swimsuit design became increasingly important. The 1920s and 1930s saw American trends reach our shores, which had a significant influence on things such as architecture, music, cinema and fashion, including beach fashion. Kiwi swimwear was originally produced in wool, mirroring styles and silhouettes found in America. They were generally produced in dark colours as light colours were see-through when wet! Production methods and materials wouldn’t change until after new technologies were introduced following World War II.
As most of us have experienced at least once in our lives, wool is ITCHY. So getting to the beach in your togs may have proved an itchy-scratchy nightmare. Once in the water though, you could be forgiven for thinking you were being dragged to the depths of Wellington Harbour by our two taniwha; as soon as wool hits water it becomes heavy, soggy and saggy. I bet most people couldn’t wait to get out of them post-swim!
During the 1920s swimsuits, or togs as us Kiwis call them, were sleeveless one-piece garments that were a modest length, sitting at the mid-thigh, for both men and women. As the 1930s rolled around mid-thigh became upper thigh, and modest became somewhat more racy. The blue and red trunks represent later styles that made their way to our shores in the middle of the 20th century.
Meals made of soap
Most people who live in the Hutt Valley have probably heard of Unilever. Part of Petone’s industrial backbone, Unilever produced handy household items including soaps, laundry detergents and cleaning products. Our museum has a selection of these products on display and many, many more in our collection store.
While I was looking through our Unilever objects, I came across some of the most bizarre photos I think I’ve ever seen: home-cooked meals, looking very tasty, made from Unilever products. Food… made of soap. They’re black and white so unfortunately we can’t see the meals in their full glory, but you get the point. The detail is so intricate, so elaborate that they look like real kai.
The photos themselves are a collection of photographic prints made by W. E. Toms between 1948 – 1972 at Eastbourne Studios. Toms was a prominent photographer during this period and we also have many of his images in our collection. He had a knack for capturing everyday scenes and making one moment feel like it was still on the move, dynamic despite being only one image.
These photos of the Unilever ‘dinners’ were publicity shots taken in the early 1960s and were reprinted in a 1964 brochure called ‘Unilever in New Zealand’ with the caption “Meal preparation in minutes. Satisfaction for hours.” Having located and flicked through the brochure it’s not clear what they meant by this phrase…
The Unilever products themselves are also quite interesting. Marketing was big in the 20th century and every opportunity was taken to showcase and sell products. Take for example the bar of soap below, with the banner reading “gift for mother.” During the mid 20th century gender roles were still very much the norm and so soap would’ve been considered a ‘women’s item’ (preparing food would’ve too, perhaps that’s the connection made with the dinners). Products like those made by Unilever therefore appealed a female audience, and those who would be buying gifts for, say, their mothers or grandmothers.
Another domestic object in our collection is a series of wallpaper samples. Not very weird, but wonderful in my opinion. I’ve always loved historic design and decoration, particularly in historic houses. There’s something charming about a quaint house with elaborate wallpaper, beautiful wood furniture and a nice, well-used garden.
We’ve probably all done some work on our houses over the years and have wanted to change the colour of the walls. My first flat had revolting green painted walls, and before moving in we asked if we could paint them a more neutral colour, and, mercifully, our landlord said yes. Countless DIY-ers have found layers upon layers of wallpaper in their houses, making redecorating an interesting exercise. However, the historian in me loves seeing everything underneath and imagining what the house would’ve been like in the past. It’s almost like being able to touch the past. Even when elements have been removed, like this wallpaper, and taken to a collection store, it’s still so easy to imagine it up on the walls, surrounding the family going about their lives.
Wallpaper always looks so unremarkable when it’s crumbling and peeling and faded, but for me that’s part of the beauty; it’s been used and lived with and has seen all sorts of things from kids playing in their rooms with their favourite toys, grandparents pottering around in the garden ripping out weeds and pruning flowers, and teens having sleepovers watching scary movies in the lounge. For me, houses and their features reach back in time and show you all of these things.
Social history collections are fascinating things; they’re made up of the things that make us ‘us’ and that made our ancestors who they were, too. They’re a record of how we live our lives and the things we think are worth keeping for future generations to experience. In this case, someone thought it was important that we keep some dude’s togs…
*Corrrection: This post originally said Petone was the home to 18 All Blacks, not 30! Kia ora to The Jackson Street Programme for spotting the error. Check out the All Blacks plaques on the ‘Walk of Champions’ along Jackson Street.
Hutt City Museums is looking for the perfect person to join
our education team in a new-Part Time Educator role (12 hours per week).
This part-time role involves assisting the education team to
create and deliver workshops to learners of all ages, drawing on your art
making skills and the exhibitions and collections of The Dowse Art Museum and
Petone Settlers Museum Te Whare Whakaaro o Pito-one.
Our beautiful moana is truly amazing. From the sea creatures that live below to the beautiful sunset’s that dazzle us from above, the sea and all its beauty is treasured part of our whānau.
Right now our moana needs help to stay healthy. That’s where we come in. This year we have teamed up with Sithmi Sathruwani, one of our Whakatū Wāhine to celebrate Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana 2019. Together we are inviting you to share your worries, find solutions, so that we can care for and celebrate all the wonderful things our sea offers.
Worried about what’s happening in our oceans? Let’s talk about it and come up with solutions together.
Download a sign and let us know what’s troubling you in the run up to Sea Week 2019.
Hutt City Council wants to know what you think about heritage in the Hutt.
The Hutt City Council (HCC) is reviewing the current heritage policy to make sure that we fulfil our role of kaitiaki for our cultural and built heritage. This review will include the city’s management of buildings, areas, identities and stories.
Your feedback will help HCC prepare a new Heritage Policy which will guide how we care for our shared heritage resources.
We know that our special city has important stories across a broad range of communities from tanagata and mana whenua to the first settlers ships, industrialization and today’s innovators and industry leaders. This review invites you to share your thoughts on heritage in Lower Hutt.
The Council is hosting Open Days at city libraries throughout January where they will welcome your feedback kanohi ki te kanohi. The dates and locations of Open Days are:
Friday 18 January, Eastbourne Library, 28 Rimu Street, 10am-2pm
Wednesday 23 January, Petone Library, 7 Britannia Street, 10am-2pm
Thursday 31 January. Taita Library, Walter Nash Centre, Taine Street, 10am-2pm
The Council is also organising meetings with interested community groups and individuals who cannot attend the Open Days. If you have any questions, would like to email feedback or would like to speak to someone about the Heritage Policy Review, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information about the review of the Heritage Policy can be found on the Hutt City Council’s website here.
The Heritage Policy review presents a great opportunity for everyone to be involved in setting a path for the city’s cultural and built heritage that meets the needs of present and future generations so please do get involved.
FULLY booked. Thanks for the interest. Please update your booking if you are no longer able to attend. We would hate people to miss out!
With Wellington Anniversary fast approaching we’ve been thinking about the history of our special place: Pito-one.
Our whare was opened on 22 January 1840 to commemorate the arrival of the first British immigrants to Pito-one’s shores in 1840. Before we were a museum, we were a bathing pavilion and enjoyed being a part of Petone’s beach scene.
Today, we are a proud member of Petone’s heritage community. Every day, we explore and celebrate the many stories of arrival and achievement in and around the Hutt Valley. From the important chiefs Te Puni and Te Wharepōuri, to today’s wonder wāhine – we have a wealth of stories to share, and we love hearing your memories as well.
To celebrate our birthday, we are inviting you on a special tour exploring the story of our whare and how it came to be.