History & heritage  |  14 Oct 2020

The world's last remaining huia nest is one of the rarely-seen taonga on show in a Christchurch Heritage Festival exhibition marking 150 years since the Canterbury Museum first opened its doors.

Since that opening day on 1 October, 1870, the Museum’s collection has grown from 25,000 objects to more than 2.3 million.

To mark the 150th anniversary, 31 of these taonga (treasures) have emerged from the Museum’s storerooms to be displayed in the exhibition House of Treasures: Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho, which is one of more than 50 events in this year's Christchurch Heritage Festival.

Highlights from the exhibition include the boots Sir Edmund Hillary wore when he summited Mount Everest, the dress Kate Sheppard wears on the $10 note, and the only remaining nest of New Zealand’s extinct native huia bird.

The last remaining huia nest in the world is on show at the Canterbury Museum.

The items range in size from the 4.5 metre-long South Island Giant Moa skeleton to the 0.63mm long fairy fly – one of the smallest flying insects in the world.

House of Treasures includes probably the oldest human-made object in the collection, an Acheulean hand-axe likely crafted by an ancient human species up to 450,000 years ago.

Museum Director Anthony Wright says the exhibition is an opportunity for Cantabrians to view some of their more rarely-seen treasures.

“Some of these objects don’t go on display very often, either because they’re too delicate, like the Kate Sheppard dress, or because we just don’t have the space.

“The huia nest is one of my absolute favourites. It’s the only known nest in the world, which makes for very poignant viewing.”

The objects in the exhibition are drawn from a book the Museum has produced celebrating its 150th year on Rolleston Avenue.

Titled House of Treasures: 150 Objects from Canterbury Museum Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho, the book features 150 taonga from the Museum’s collection, captured by award-winning photographer Jane Ussher with text by Museum staff.

  • The exhibition House of Treasures: Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho is on Level 3 of the Museum until 13 June, 2021. The Christchurch Heritage Festival opens on 24 October and runs until 8 November.