Seven people on a standing and sitting in repose on a swing bridge. They have packages with them.

Mīharo Wonder: 100 Years of the Alexander Turnbull Library 

Opening 26 February 2021 — Alexander Turnbull Centenary exhibition

What does the word ‘wonder’ – or ‘mīharo’ – mean to you? It could be something that is amazing, fascinating or astonishing; it is also to think, speculate, meditate. Discover wonder in this Alexander Turnbull centenary exhibition.

A century of collecting

Putting together an exhibition that celebrates 100 years of collecting and does justice to the sheer extent of those collections is a challenge.

We could have favoured the most popular items, or we could have chosen them on a chronological basis or by monetary value. Instead, wonder was our yardstick,

Mīharo Wonder is therefore a somewhat personal response to the collections. We sifted through thousands of items, distilling our selection to an amount reasonable to fit comfortably in a largish room.

What’s in the exhibition?

To us, wonder is found not only in the biggest, smallest, oldest, most lavish or extravagant. It is the miracle of real lives lived, of everyday people making sense of their lives and the world around them.

There is wonder in the tiny hand-sewn buttons made by French prisoners on the island of St Helena between 1803 and 1806. Who were they, and how did these daintiest of things arrive in New Zealand?

It is in the representation of New Zealand history as a kauri tree, almost 2.5 metres high and 1.5 metres wide, drawn with a pen by a Mr James Meek, aged 62 years, who began in July 1876 and finished a day shy of the new year. How did he feel when at last he put down his pen and looked at his creation?

It is even in the diaries of an itinerant Wairarapa swagman, who kept and carried them for 30 years from 1888, recording in blunt pencil each day’s weather and his movements under those changing skies.

We have chosen items that declared themselves to our eye, heart and mind. We know they’ll speak to yours too.

Peter Ireland and Dr Fiona Oliver, exhibition curators

Logos, Boost, Te Puna Foundation, Turnbull Endowment Trust

The Mīharo Wonder exhibition webpage is proudly supported by Boost. The Mīharo Wonder exhibition is proudly sponsored by the Turnbull Endowment Trust and the Te Puna Foundation


Feature image at top of page — Detail of Log bridge, Coal Creek, c. 1900. Artist unknown Ref: G-172. Alexander Turnbull Library.