Close up of little blue penguin, NOM 91/0261

Introducing The Our Land Exhibition

I recently posted about one of the new exhibitions that will open later this year. You can read about that here. Today I am introducing another of the exhibitions, this one is called Our Land. Many of the same considerations apply as detailed in the blog post on the Empire exhibition including object condition, visitor feedback and community expectations. The Our Land exhibition also relates to the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark. This exhibition showcases many of the local geosites and provides links to other places for people to visit such as Vanished World in Duntroon.

The items in this exhibition reveal aspects of the history of the Waitaki district. The story of our land begins millions of years ago, when the Waitaki, like much of New Zealand, lay under the sea. During this time, Ōamaru’s famous limestone formed on the seafloor. The limestone preserves some of the most incredible fossils in the world. In this exhibition you can meet the animals and plants that have called this place home – living and extinct, giant and microscopic. This exhibition also includes items related to how people have understood and used the amazing geology of our land. You can see some of the collection objects that will be displayed in this exhibition via our collections online website.

This exhibition is divided in to six sections. Initially I wanted to present the topics chronologically, but a thematic approach fitted better with our collection. One zone is focused on local fossil diatoms and the story of the Oamaru Museum’s curators Thomas Forrester and Dr Harry De Lautour who both became passionate diatomists. A highlight of this section is Thomas Forrester’s beautiful brass microscope. This section also features a taxidermy rat which I have previously blogged about.

Another section is dedicated to Māori geological traditions. The Museum is working with the Te Rūnanga o Moeraki and Waitaha Taiwhenua O Waitaki Trust Board to select the objects to showcase in this section. Likely topics include the tradition of Poutini the taniwha and the voyages of Ārai-te-uru and Uruao.

Quarrying and mining is the topic for another section. This zone covers gold mining, including a sluicing nozzle from Maerewhenua. A miner’s helmet and lamp from the Ngapara Colliery and Kilns is used to illustrate the history of coal mining locally. This section also has a chisel from the short lived local slate mining industry at Mt. Dasher. Finally, local limestone quarrying and processing is also covered.

Volcanoes are the highlight of the next section. One of my favourite items to go in the exhibition is a piece of breccia from Kakanui. It is so cool to see the different minerals and it is amazing to think of their origin deep inside the earth millions of years ago. This section includes other volcanic rock specimens such as garnets from Kakanui, basalt from Waiareka and pillow lava from Boatman’s Harbour.

Our district is famous for fossils and another section focuses on these. It includes plant fossils like a piece of petrified wood and marine animal fossils like this scallop shell. We are working with Ewan Fordyce at the University of Otago to get a replica skull of a fossil dolphin to display here too.

The last section includes an assortment of items including a little blue penguin, a moa bone, a chain for cutting limestone and a figural keystone from one of our heritage buildings. These items relate to activities for visitors to do. This exhibition has a focus on being a place for families to enjoy and there are fun things for children of different ages to explore. There is also a short film in this section featuring different people talking about their connections to the Waitaki district.

Until the museum reopens please enjoy browsing through these objects online. I will be writing some more blog posts about stories behind these objects so keep an eye on our website.

Chloe Searle