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Object: Food cupboard

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Title Food cupboard
Production Unknown (manufacturer(s)), circa 1930, New Zealand
Materials wood, metal
Classification furniture, livery cupboards, utility furniture
Dimensions Overall: 1160mm (Height) x 675mm (Width) x 590mm (Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1997 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number GH009103

This food cupboard, built during the Great Depression of the 1930s, shows how New Zealanders 'made do' during hard times. It is built almost entirely of packing-case timber from the United States, with the many inscriptions pointing to the timbers' earlier uses: 'Clock - handle with care', 'Exported from USA Jackliss Sons New York', and, on the inside of the removable door panel, 'NZR' and 'Pictures'.

Making do
Known as 'Kiwi ingenuity', New Zealanders have a reputation for being able to create the things they need out of the materials they have at hand. This skill was perhaps especially important in the early 1930s.

The Depression in New Zealand
For many New Zealanders, the Great Depression of the early 1930s was extremely traumatic. 'The slump', as it was also known, brought increased unemployment, and poverty was widespread. Government relief was insufficient and many poorer people were forced to rely on charity and their own resourcefulness to survive.

As times improved and people could afford new things, pieces of makeshift furniture like this food cupboard would have been discarded. This rare example of Kiwi ingenuity was found in 1993 in the shed of an old house in Sandringham, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. The area was a working-class neighbourhood at the time the cupboard was made.

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