Mīharo Wonder: Celebrating 100 Years of the Alexander Turnbull Library

25 February 2021: Mīharo Wonder: Celebrating 100 Years of the Alexander Turnbull Library

Tiny hand-sewn buttons created by prisoners on St Helena in 1803 and a 2.5-metre-high kauri tree capturing New Zealand history are two items on display in Mīharo Wonder: celebrating 100 Years of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The exhibition of 170 items also includes Sumerian tablets dating from 2250 BC and a globe showing the tracks of James Cook’s first voyage, small enough to fit into your pocket.

Alexander Turnbull Library Chief Librarian Chris Szekely says it’s not just about the oldest, most expensive object.

“You’ll also see evidence of everyday people making sense of the world around them – scribbled letters, untutored drawings, charts and diagrams, photographs recording brief moments in time, giving insights into place, culture and people’s lives.”

19th-century collector Alexander Turnbull started his collection in the late 1800s. Born and raised in New Zealand and educated in England, Turnbull focussed his interests on New Zealand and the Pacific, exploration and discovery, history and literature. His collection included books, artworks and artefacts.

Today, the Alexander Turnbull Library collections continue to grow, containing well over four-million taonga and treasures.

Alexander Turnbull Library curators Peter Ireland and Fiona Oliver say selecting just 170 items was a challenge.

“We sifted through thousands of things, distilling our selection to fit comfortably into the exhibition. When a single book takes up a whole case, it really has to earn its place.

“The items chosen declared themselves to our eye, heart and mind. We hope they’ll speak to other people too,” says Fiona Oliver.

Mīharo Wonder will also exhibit a new artwork by renowned weaver Matthew McIntyre-Wilson. The work will reflect Turnbull’s own words, “Anything whatever relating to this Colony, on its history, flora, fauna, geology and inhabitants, will be fish for my net, from as early a date as possible until now.”

The exhibition opens Friday 26 February and closes Saturday 2 October 2021 at the National Library of New Zealand, Molesworth Street, Wellington.

Entry to Mīharo Wonder is free.

If you can’t make it into Wellington then you can visit the exhibition online natlib.govt.nz/miharo-wonder


Media contact

For further information, please contact media@dia.govt.nz or call +64 27 535 8639