NZ – Christchurch museum

Posted by jerry on November 1st, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Motorcycling, Travel

NZ Canterbury Musuem, Christchurch

NZ Canterbury musem

This is a good regional museum – well equipped and laid out. The collection is arranged chronologically from the first peoples – Iwi tawhito- whenua hou (Ancient peoples – new lands) covering first settlment artifacts, including stone axxes and adzes and a form of bow drill. There was an interesting note that there s little evidence of tribal warfare until the Moa (flightless bird) was hunted to extinction, with the speculation that resource pressures brought competition and conflict.

Decorative arts from early European settlement are well represented with glass and ceramics and furniture and costumes.

‘Christchurch Street’ – a recreated Victorian period street makes for a good immersive experience of life in the Victorian times.

But perhaps the most fascinating and unique exhibition is that devoted to Antarctic exploration. I was particularly taken by the steampunk looking dome used at Hallett Station. The dome was made from fibreglass and assembled in place by US Navy Seabees in 1957. The dome has a tongue and groove wooden floor and was assembled using brass bolts to ensure that there were no magnetic components. It was used as a weather observation post and housed a sensitive variograph which recorded tiny changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The observatory was kept free of magnetic contamination by ensuring that it contained no metal furniture or other items.


The dome was recovered from the base in 2004 when the Station was closed and the base site cleaned up.

Another interesting exhibit was Ivan Mauger’s 1970 winning speedway motorcycle. He had won the 1968 and 1969 World speedway championships, and undertook a US tour, during which an American industrialist told him that if he won the championship a record third time running he would gold plate the motorcycle. After the 1970 win, the bike was shipped to the US where it was dismantled and every component was gold plated over the succeeding 18 months at a cost of US$500,000 – even the pistons and valves are gold plated. But otherwise the bike is in exactly the condition in which it fininished the last race – so in theory at least it is a fully functional motorcycle.

Ivan Mauger gold bike

That bike can be seen today in Canterbury museum as a piece of motorcycling history.

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