Silk shawl, feral cat skins given to Aratoi

By Don Farmer don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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The silk shawl and photo of its original owner. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The silk shawl and photo of its original owner. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

An embroidered silk shawl dating back to at least the 1920s, an on-board World War I ships' magazine and photos of Featherston Military Camp with large fold out panoramas were among items offered to Aratoi in the first quarter of this year, but the most unusual offering in the three months was a collection of preserved feral cat skins.

In a report to Masterton District Council the art and history museum's director Alice Hutchison said the cat skins offering "sounds rather strange but has great provenance and a story attached, though it would be better if they were taxidermied cats".

The skins have been offered to Aratoi by the daughter of a rabbit board trapper who worked the foothills of the Tararua Ranges in the 1940s.

"He sometimes caught wild cats in his traps and kept the skins he particularly liked."

The trapper's daughter had inherited the skins which Ms Hutchison said were in very good condition and the daughter wanted to donate them to the museum.

The embroidered silk shawl had belonged to the Hume family of Pirinoa and had been brought to Aratoi by former Masterton deputy mayor Jane Terpstra.

It was in very good condition and had a photograph with it showing the shawl being worn by its original owner back in the 1920s.

Earlier this year a Christchurch weaver Robin Hill visited Aratoi, bringing with her the gift of a shoulder cloak or arapaki.

She had been at Aratoi last year studying cloaks in the museum's collection and had been particularly taken with one Pirinoa farmer Holmes Warren had given to the museum on long-term loan. That cloak had been bought by Mr Holmes' father at a fundraiser in Featherston during World War I.

The arapaki design is based on that cloak, which is made of jute decorated with kereru feathers and black and yellow wool.

The arapaki was not gifted so that it could go into the collection but was intended to be worn at ceremonial occasions, or perhaps laid on a table when taonga are brought into Aratoi.

A tooled leather cover for an embroidery hoop and a Carpenters' Handbook issued to soldiers on their release from the army at the end of World War II have also been offered to Aratoi and will be discussed at the next collections meeting.

From January to the end of March the museum received three requests from other museums to borrow works in its collection.

City Gallery, Wellington, requested the loan of a Colin McCahon's Poster for the Urewera No2 and the New Zealand Portrait Gallery was also after a McCahon work -- portrait of Anne Hamblett -- along with a painting by Evelyn Page.

The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt sought a list of the work of James Greig held by Aratoi as it was organising an exhibition of his work.

Visitor numbers to Aratoi over the three months (not including those who entered the building just to visit the cafe or toilets) were: January 2215 (daily average 71), February 1966 (daily average 67) and March 2381 (daily average 77) being a total for the quarter of 6562 and bringing the financial year to date total to 18,724.

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