Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Auckland (War Memorial) Museum

I visited the Auckland Museum today. This is housed in a huge, standalone white building set atop a grassy field on one of the local volcanoes. It's a very impressive setting. It caters to huge amounts of tourists and has a large amount of bus parking nearby but so far as I could tell, not a single bike rack (gripe gripe). This museum is marked on all maps as "The Auckland Museum" but I find that is was originally intended as a war memorial, more specifically for the "great war" - WWI. It does have a large memorial and war artifact collection, but it also houses an impressive cultural and natural history collection as well as the neatest kids areas in a museum that I have ever seen.

The ground floor was loaded with Maori artifacts including complete boats and houses. There was also a lot of weaponry that brought a description I recently read of the first, confrontatious meeting between Europeans and the Maori to life.
There were a lot of intricate wood carvings, including adornment with Paua.
A whalebone chair!
Here is what Pascal will have to wear if she wants to join the NZ equivalent of the Girl Scouts (that is, if she joined 50 years ago). I can't wait to see one of these birds alive and flying above the sea foam. This is an albatross, "a great seabird," that I first learned of in the famous Coleridge poem. It is indeed an enormous bird if you expected to see instead, for instance, something the size of a seagull. A large albatross is as big as a turkey but specially designed for long-distance flight at sea.As far as big birds go, you can't shake a stick at the moa. That is due to the fact that they were hunted to extinction about 500 years ago.

I paid a bit extra and got to watch a presentation of Maori songs and dances, including a haka:

The Maori are the indigenous people of NZ (foreigners are "pakeha"). Unlike in the US, where the treaties between the US government and the indigenous tribes are now worthless or serve to separate the cultures, the Treaty of Waitangi is now considered the founding document of NZ and a modern revival of Maori culture seems to be underway. It's amazing that there is not more strife between the pakeha and the Maori given the intensity of their battling throughout a period of war in the 1800's although I read that there is a modern Maori revival that parallels the US civil rights movement and American Indian activism. The truth is, I have yet to see much of the Maori culture or people due to my residence and employment in the center of Auckland, which is a land peopled from England and Asia.

No comments: