Sunday, 05 July 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

New Museum exhibit to celebrate our natural history

A new exhibit celebrating the rich natural history of the Coromandel is being developed at Mercury Bay Museum.

Manager, Rebecca Cox, is working alongside Emily McKeague from the Department of Conservation and Tom Trnski from Auckland Museum to tell the stories of the flora and fauna that make up our natural world, with a specific focus on species that are native to Mercury Bay.

“We have already cleared out two rooms to make way for the new display,” says Rebecca. “While we will showcase many of our well-known taonga, like our kauri and kiwi for example, we are also very excited about being able to help people learn more about some of our lesser known gems that aren’t always in the spotlight. Some of these are also getting to the point of needing help terms of conservation.” Examples include the bittern along with tusked weta, which can be found at the Mercury Islands.

Rebecca, Emily and Tom met on site on Thursday last week to start planning the design of the exhibit and identify suitable items from the museum’s existing collection.

“One thing we have that everyone was very excited about is what is commonly known as the Wood Rose, which is New Zealand’s only indigenous fully parasitic plant and is apparently pollinated by the short-tailed bat,” says Rebecca. “We have quite a big piece of it, so that’s certainly one of the more interesting items we will be able to include.”

The Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve will also provide inspiration for the exhibit and highlight the role that reserves and other conservation efforts play in protecting our natural environment.

As well as contributing both funding and support, DOC and Auckland Museum will also assist with designing and developing an education programme around the exhibit which will be especially aimed at school groups. Mercury Bay Museum delivered a similar and highly popular programme in 2019 based around the Tuia 250 commemoration. The focus was on the “Twelve Days” exhibit, which chronicles significant moments from the visit of Cook and his botanists, Banks and Solander, to the Bay in 1769.

“For this project we will be touching on some of the work done by Banks and Solander back then in documenting our native species,” says Rebecca. “Through the Auckland Museum’s BioBlitz programme last year, we have been doing comparisons between what we are seeing now in terms of biodiversity and what Cook and his crew found 250 years ago. That will another really interesting part of the exhibit.”

The education programme will be linked to the school curriculum so that it can be easily used by teachers as a readily accessible resource. “It will be all here for them,” says Rebecca. “The idea is that we have a complete programme so the teachers don’t need to go looking for more information, it is ready to go. It will also support DOC in reaching more schools. They don’t have a visitor centre in Mercury Bay, so this will be a dedicated space for students to be able to come and specifically learn about their natural environment.”

Among the funding for the exhibit is a Trust Waikato grant and a donation from the Simpson Family at Wharekaho, who generously donate the museum some of the proceeds from their motor camp each year.

Rebecca says the aim is to have the exhibit open by early October. “In the meantime, if people do have any interesting items that they think could be suitable for inclusion, let us know, we would love to take a look,” she says.

Pictured: Tom Trnski, Head of National Sciences at Auckland Museum, Rebecca Cox (centre), Mercury Bay Museum Manager, and Emily McKeague, DOC Coromandel Community Ranger, are jointly working on a new natural history exhibit for Mercury Bay Museum.

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