This collection of rare and beautiful artefacts includes treasures such as the Hawaiian feather cloak and helmet, the Society Islands mourning costume, and a number of Maori taonga. Some of them have a direct connection with Cook’s voyages. We know this because their ‘pedigree’ happens to be quite well documented.
They were treasures acquired by the collector William Bullock from various sources. Some came from the sale of the Leverian Museum collection in London in 1806. Some were given to him by Sir Joseph Banks. Some came from other private collectors. Bullock displayed them in his own museum in London.
In 1819, Bullock sold off his entire collection. The items now in Te Papa were bought by Charles Winn (1795 1874) for his private collection. In 1912, after they had been in the family nearly one hundred years, Charles Winn’s grandson, the Second Baron St Oswald, gave them ‘to the Dominion of New Zealand’. The gift came as a complete surprise to the Museum’s director, Augustus Hamilton. He commented in a letter at the time, ‘Goodness knows what the reason was that prompted Lord St Oswald to send them out to New Zealand.’
Today they are regarded as treasures that connect us with our Pacific and Maori ancestors, and our Pakeha explorer past.
Text originally published in Tai Awatea, Te Papa's onfloor multimedia database.