Social History Collection

Mahara Ā Iwi

The Social History Collection is a diverse and exciting collection of just over 10,000 items relating to people, events and organisations of Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand.

The Social History Collection was originally established through collecting military objects, coins and objects relating to famous historical figures. From the 1960s collecting in this department extended to represent a broader spectrum of people and to represent people’s domestic lives. Objects in other departments such as Costume and Textile and the Archives also have social histories.

The Social History Collection has nationally important objects relating to William Colenso including his microscope, organ and a desk which belonged to him and was used by his daughter Fanny. There is also the significant McLean Collection relating to Donald McLean and Douglas Maclean.

The 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake and re-building of Art Deco Napier is well represented. As well as documenting domestic life, the collection holds objects that relate to local industries and organisations.

The military holdings of the Social History Collection include a New Zealand Cross medal set awarded to Captain George Preece for bravery and determination during the first attack on Ngātapa Pā. The collection also has numerous objects relating to the New Zealand Land Wars and World War One. One highlight is a Colt revolver owned by Francis Twiselton that was damaged at Gallipoli.

The domestic objects document home life and leisure. These objects were used for housecleaning, laundering, food preparation, child rearing and home entertainment. There are also a collection of toys and games. 

Some favourite transport items include the 1903 blue Darraq car, the stage coach which was used on the Napier - Taupo road and the large model of the ship Marere.

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