Ngāi Tahu taonga showcased in Akaroa

Taonga displayed at Akaroa Museum.

Taonga displayed at Akaroa Museum.

A new exhibition has just opened at Akaroa Museum portraying the history of Banks Peninsula.

Helen Brown, Senior Researcher – Archives, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, says the exhibition showcases a number of Ngāi Tahu taonga collected by Louis Vangioni.

“Louis was a Pākehā collector in the early 20th Century who had close relationships with Ōnuku whānau, who in the past gifted, sold and made taonga for him,” says Helen.

“The beauty of his taonga collection is that he kept meticulous records including the precise locations of their discoveries and the names of those from whom he obtained them,” she says.

Some of the exhibited taonga include a hue (gourd vessel) that belonged to Wiremu Karaweko that was given to Louis Vangioni in 1909 by Wiremu’s daughter Amiria Puhirere; and a pātiti parāoa (whalebone hand axe) made by Tamati Tikao. The Tikao family gave this taonga to Louis Vangioni in 1924.


Helen said these items have been in storage at Canterbury Museum previously but have been returned to Akaroa on a loan agreement.

Another important development at the museum is the inclusion of elements from the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project.

“In addition to text panels and taonga, there are two touch screens at the Museum that visitors can use to access information about local Ngāi Tahu history,” says Helen.

“Ōnuku whānau were keen to use information from the Cultural Mapping Project as part of the storytelling at Akaroa. One of the touchscreens allows visitors to touch names on a map of Akaroa Harbour to learn the history behind those names,” she says.

Helen stressed the importance of having accurate information in this exhibition.

“It’s vital that we promote accurate information about Ngāi Tahu history in the public domain that is both supported and endorsed by local communities, and that is the case at Akaroa,” she says.

This is the first stage in the reopening of Akaroa Museum, which has been strengthened and repaired following the Canterbury earthquakes. The remainder of the Museum will be developed next year and will include more Ngāi Tahu content. It is the first major change to the displays at the museum for over 20 years.

Ōnuku Rūnanga approached the archives team at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for their support in the development of this project. Using the Cultural Mapping Project as a starting point, the archives team has been working with Papatipu Rūnanga on a number of heritage interpretation and museum projects in recent years, including the development of various interpretation panels, the Queenstown Visitor Centre and the Ashburton Museum.