Our Museum holds an outstanding collection of Chatham Islands heritage, including both early indigenous and historic multicultural items, and significant archives. It tells Our Stories about Our People.
The photography collection holds over 2,100 images of landscapes, plants and animals, buildings, ships and shipwrecks, people and events, and our archives include documents, maps, newsletters, and newspapers. Together they capture our fascinating history.
Robert Ritchie's residence at Owenga with his Moriori workers, 1873
* Miheke Moriori
The term Moriori refers to those ancestral Eastern Polynesians who settled the Chatham Islands possibly 800 years ago and had developed a distinct culture by the year 1500. They named the islands 'Rekohu'- translated as 'misty skies' or 'misty sun', Extended family groups hunted and gathered food, and tended kopi (karaka) groves. Objects in the museum portray aspects of the Moriori way of life.
* Early European
The name Chatham Islands comes from the HM brig 'Chatham', whose captain William R. Broughton charted part of the north coast and landed at Kaingaroa on 29 November 1791. He claimed possession for Great Britain and named the islands after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham. We hold archives relating to the visit.
* Sealing & Whaling
Broughton's report led to the arrival of European sealers in the early 1800s and huge numbers of seals were taken between 1806-1810. Sealing continued until about 1844. The sealers probably introduced potatoes and pigs. Whaling vessels called at the Chatham Islands for fresh food, water and wood supplies from the early 1840s until the late 1880s, with Pitt Island capturing the bulk of the American trade by 1860. Objects, photos and documents relate to these early industries.
* Taonga Māori
In 1835, about 900 Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama, previously resident in the Wellington area, arrived on the brig 'Rodney’. The group, which included men, women and children, brought with them 78 tonnes of seed potato, 20 pigs and seven large waka. They dispersed and settled throughout Chatham Island. Many items cover the history and contribution Maori made to our society.
* Missionaries & European Farmers
Anglican Maori missionaries first visited in 1840, and the Wesleyan missionary, Rev. John Aldred spent several months on Chatham Island in 1842. An all-male group of German Moravian missionaries arrived in 1843. When a group of women were sent out to join them three years later, several marriages ensued; a number of the present-day population can trace their ancestry back to those missionary families. Our archives and photographs tell the history of the German Mission and the skills the missionaries brought to the Chatham Islands.
Farmers from mainland New Zealand arrived in the 1860s, leased land from the Maori, and by the 1880s had developed a thriving wool economy. Settlements developed and by 1900 some 26 nationalities were represented within the Island's population.
New wharf at Waitangi: 'Kopua' loading sheep, 'Holmburn' and 'Port Waikato' at anchor, ca 1933.
* Photographs & Postcards
We hold, and eagerly continue to add to, an extensive collection of photographs from, and about the Islands and its inhabitants. Photographs date from the 1870s, and postcards from the early 1900s. All material is in the process of being catalogued and digitised into our database.
Early news sheets and newspapers are collated and give a sense of the times, and together with magazine articles report on many aspects of life on the Chatham Islands. The earliest local newsletter appeared in August 1867 whilst scrapbooks of newspapers cuttings provide further information from about the 1930s.
A crowd at the Mangoutu Hotel - flag flying signifies a boat arrival, ca 1880s
* Other Documents & Archives
.Our extensive collection of archives relate to shipping and shipwrecks, innovative bird recovery projects, special events and celebrations, the development of industries, local and regional communications, roading and other infrastructure, and public services. The Barker Estate collection represents a lifetime of collecting by Stephen Barker and relates to Kaingaroa Station from the 1890s to 2004.
We’re currently cataloguing over 275 books and reports written about the Chatham Islands and it’s people. It’s a work in progress!