on February 13, 2010
Having just had a picnic lunch in the Botanic Gardens next door (though it was August and so winter and the gardens were not in their prime!), I wandered into the Canterbury Museum. The building itself is Victorian and looks quite grand walking in - in fact you don't realise what you are really getting yourself into - as beyond is what can only be described as a large rabbit warren of rooms filled with a huge array of different exhibits. Admission is techincally free - though donations are strongly encouraged - so its up to you how much you think its worth or can part with. The Museum has more than two million collection items which cover the stories of early Maori, European settlement and Antarctic exploration as well as much more. Those more interested in natural history there are displays on the wildlife of New Zealand including the kiwi and the famed but extinct Moa, a large, flightless running bird, as well as fossils Then again explore a little more the history of the Maori through the collection of many items including beautiful carvings, weapons, jewellery and kiwi feather cloaks, and displays of the life of early Maori from hunting to houses. Then you can also see the story of the European settlers and how they came and built a very English city on the other side of the world - this is added to by the mock Victorian street with business - which while a little cheesy is quite interesting and would probably be quite fun with kids. Also the Antarctic display is fascinating with so much history about the exploration of this frozen land - from the basic huts of the earliest explorers, artifacts from the expeditions of Amundsen and Scott to displays of penguins.This is not all - there are many other bits and pieces of history from across the world - also transport - but I skipped through much of this as there is so much to see in the rest of the museum. Equally there are many exhibitions that change regularly - so its worth checking the museum website for the current one -http://www.canterburymuseum.com/index.aspHowever my favourite part was the quirky Paua Shell House which has been transplanted to the museum from Bluff which is a town right down in the south of the island. It belonged to Fred and Myrtle Flutey - who had opened their home to visitor for many years, but after they passed away questions were raised about how to keep their most unusual home with some controversy - but was eventually recreated here. The place is packed out with Paua shells which only found in the waters surrounding New Zealand - and while you will see them everywhere this is something else! The lounge walls were covered with 1200 shells as well as many other items incorporating the shells - you won't believe how much is packed into this small room. Before you get into the reconstructed lounge you sit down in a little cinema and watch a film about Kiwiana - and why this lounge and its creators are part of it. It really is a sight to behold - and an insight into life in New Zealand.As I had to meet someone my visit here was a little too short - I wish I had had more time to explore the exhibits a little more - equally I didn't really have a chance to try the cafe upstairs or a nosy in the shop downstairs. But I truely recommend the musuem whether you have half an hour or an entire afternoon - there is so much to see you could have several repeat visits - but even a short visit you see something interesting.
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