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Te Papa's NZ Scots exhibition

Around fifty per cent of New Zealanders can claim some Scottish ancestry so Te Papa is expecting lots of visitors to their latest exhibition.
‘The Scots in New Zealand’ exhibition opened today (18th Aug 2007) and it highlights the contribution of kilted kiwis.
The Scottish were one of the biggest immigrant streams to New Zealand and with a recent flurry of interest among descendents and academics, Te Papa has launched a two and a half year exhibition on the Scots.
The Scots’ contribution to New Zealand has been so far reaching from engineering, education, agriculture and architecture – it has been difficult to select what to exhibit.
Over the next few months, the exhibition will be brought to life with Scottish games, dancing and of course the pipes.

Click here to watch a wee video of the event

And here are some pictures taken by Philipp Fahr and Tanja Bueltmann...

You can visit the Exhibition site here!

From the New Zealand Herald we read...

Och aye, it's Scotland's turn for Te Papa glory
5:00AM Saturday August 18, 2007
By Mike Houlahan

Te Papa staffer Simon Urbahn prepares a ram's head 'snuff mull' made in Edinburgh in 1875. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dunedin is regarded as the heart of all things Scottish in New Zealand, but a new exhibition at Te Papa shows the influence of the Scots on this country is far more widespread.

Every 2 1/2 years the Wellington-based national museum replaces the cultural history exhibition in its communities gallery with the story of another community or ethnic group.

The Italians have had their time in the sun, and from today tales of Scottish migration and the impact those settlers and their descendants have had on New Zealand take over.

History curator Stephanie Gibson said while settlements such as the Northland town of Waipu - where around 800 Scottish migrants arrived in the 1850s - and mass migration such as that to Dunedin were well known, Scots were diffuse rather than niche migrants.

"Dunedin was a massive, large-scale, dominant migration which saw Scots retain their dominance in most of the 19th century, and you can still see traces now, but by the late 19th / early 20th century, Scots were spread evenly throughout the country. They scattered quite quickly, and became a part of New Zealand society.

"They are very subtle in terms of their pervasiveness in New Zealand: many New Zealanders can claim Scottish ancestry. Scottish people still arrive here, they still migrate, so you get people with thick brogues as part of our society now, and then people like me who are fifth generation and vaguely know of my ancestors who came over in the 1860s."

A group of 30 community representatives helped plan the exhibition, including migrants, cultural groups, and academics from Victoria University's Stout Research Centre, which is conducting a study on Scottish migration and settlement.

The exhibition tells migration stories, highlights expressions of Scottish culture such as the annual Highland Games in Waipu and New Zealand's active pipe band scene, and pinpoints Scots who have made a special contribution to the country's history - most notably Peter Fraser, who began life in the Highland village of Ross-Shire and went on to become Prime Minister of NZ from 1940 to 1949.

"Our biggest dilemma was that the obvious signs of Scottishness are things like bagpipes and kilts and tartans and whisky," Ms Gibson said. "But the exhibition is pretty subtle: you don't see tartan until the end, but you see a New Zealand twist on it."

Maisie Earle, a Highlander who came to this country with her New Zealand-born husband, was one of the consultants on the exhibition. She said the exhibition might help lift the profile of the Scots in New Zealand somewhere near that of their much more visible Celtic neighbours the Irish.

"The Scots, whichever country they went to - whether it was Patagonia, China or New Zealand - they've always tried to become part of the general population," the former president of Clan Cameron in New Zealand said.

"I think the Irish didn't quite so much. As I understand it, when they came out they were still bringing Irish politics with them. The Scots didn't do that, so they don't have as high a profile as the Irish in New Zealand."

That low profile meant Dr Earle, a Massey University emeritus professor, was frequently offering factual advice to Te Papa on things Scottish - "giving them a little tweak every now and again and telling them some of the background about some of the things, it was more of that really".

"New Zealand Scots have built up a New Zealand Scottish culture which is different from what is at home now ... It is very much dominated by pipe bands and Scottish highland dancing and things like that, which is very strong in Scots New Zealand culture."

Return to our New Zealand History Page


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