Monday, 31 October 2016

Parihaka

Background

After the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi – The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 the European population of Aotearoa New Zealand began to increase rapidly. Settlers wanted land. From early on, the area around Mt Taranaki had been identified as ideal land for British settlement. The New Zealand Company, an organisation which focused on colonisation and land sales, was involved in the settlement of New Plymouth and several extremely dubious land purchases in Taranaki in the late 1830s and early 1840s. New Zealand Company artist Charles Heaphy produced an enticing, idealised painting of Mt Egmont / Mt Taranaki to attract potential migrants. However, there was nothing to indicate that this was the ancestral tribal land of Te Ātiawa and other Taranaki Māori. When the new Colonial government was established, land purchase officers were officially appointed to purchase Māori land for the Crown, as outlined in the Treaty.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Obstetric tables: a 19th century flap book

In 1845 George Spratt published the fourth edition of his highly successful Obstetric tables : comprising graphic illustrations, with descriptions and practical remarks; exhibiting on dissected plates, many important subjects in midwifery. This illustrated anatomical ‘flap book’ is a recent addition to the Sir George Grey Special Collections printed collection. You can view a digitised version of the 1835 edition through the Internet Archive, or come visit us on Level 2 of the Central City Library to turn the pages (and lift the flaps) yourself.

Obstetric tables was published as a training aid at a time when it was becoming difficult for medical students to gain clinical experience. It contains a large number of layered illustrations that can be lifted to provide ‘dissected’ views of the female body in pregnancy. Some of the plates contain as many as four or five layers, showing for example the different stages of pregnancy, the position of a baby during birth, and use of forceps in an assisted delivery.


Monday, 10 October 2016

Milan Mrkusich’s public art

One of New Zealand’s most highly respected abstract artists, Milan Mrkusich, designed several large public artworks in Auckland in the 1950s-1960s. The most well-known existing ones include the mosaic mural on the B. J. Ball Building overlooking Fanshawe Street, and the stained glass windows at Grey Lynn’s St Joseph’s Catholic Church - the largest abstract work in the country at that time.


B. J. Ball (NZ) Ltd was a paper manufacturing company and Mrkusich’s mural for them highlights the paper-making process from the raw material of trees to the end product of stacks of reams. This mural is 7.6m high and 3.9m wide (25ft x13 ft.) and is made from thousands of glass and ceramic tiles. As Julian Dashper recounts in a 1995 article, Mrkusich made full size plan drawings “which he rolled up and posted to Italy, where a master tile maker made a complete mural on the floor, turned it upside down into hundreds of little boxes and sent it back to New Zealand” where it was assembled (“An Artist’s Look at Auckland’s Public Art”, Modern New Zealand, No 1, p 2-9, 1995).

In 1997 the Historic Places Trust notified a plan to give the B. J. Ball Building a category one listing on the historic places register partly because of the mural’s artistic significance (NZ Herald, 4 March 1997, A9).

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

House and home: entertainment

Now on in our exhibition space on the second floor of the Central Library is House and home: domestic life in New Zealand. This nostalgic exhibition, which will run until 30 October, explores the domestic side of New Zealand life before the 1980s. It looks at what made a house a home in New Zealand. Today we’re looking at entertainment in the home.

Piano