Carvings under examination

Conservator Rose Evans examining historic carvings at Te Ahu Heritage Museum that were found in Kaitaia earlier this year. Photo / Peter Jackson
Conservator Rose Evans examining historic carvings at Te Ahu Heritage Museum that were found in Kaitaia earlier this year. Photo / Peter Jackson

Two old pou uncovered during a shed clear-out at Kaitaia this year are being examined to see what secrets they unlock.

The pou, one of them in two pieces, were found in a shed in Okahu Rd in March by Wiki and Mahue Tarawa and are now undergoing expert examination by conservator Rose Evans, on behalf of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Ms Evans began her examination at Te Ahu Heritage Museum and Archives in Kaitaia this week, but will likely take the carvings to her laboratory, Objectlab, in Auckland to complete the work and draw up a proposal for their stabilisation and preservation.

She hadn't reached any firm conclusions after her work on Tuesday, but suspected that the pou might not be especially ancient. They clearly displayed nail holes, and the remains of nails, although those could have been added long after carving - the pou also featured traditional holes for lashings. They had also been adorned with lead paint at some stage.

The paint had been removed, no doubt with significant effort, she said, but vestiges remained. They had also been cleaned of moss and lichen at some point, "so someone has been caring for them."

There was evidence of borer and other damage, including some signs of rot, although they generally appeared to be in good condition. They had been given a coating of linseed oil at some point, a process that Ms Evans had no doubt had been undertaken with the best of intentions but which she would rather not have seen. She also believed they showed evidence of work with steel tools.

Te Ahu Museum manager/curator Kaaren Mitcalfe said the process now, apart from preserving the pou, would include looking for the original owners, or which museum they should finally go to. There was some suggestion that they might have come from the East Coast.

"They've certainly had an interesting time, and now they're getting a new lease on life," Ms Mitcalfe said.

The restoration process would not be aimed at making them look new though. They were obviously old, although no one knew how old, and their fundamental appearance wasn't going to change.

Ms Evans had an international reputation as a museum consultant and conservator, and had worked with a wide range of institutions and iwi.

- Northern Advocate

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