The number of names entered in the Visitors' Book during the year is 12,000, but as comparatively few make use of this register, it does not give even an approximate idea of the number of persons who visit the Museum, and it is very desirable that some mechanism should be provided for recording, as is done in other similar institutions. The additions to the Museum will be found in the usual report, printed in pamphlet form (Sixteenth Annual Report, 1880–1).
Natural History Collections.
The additions to the Natural History collections have not been very extensive, but, nevertheless, comprise some specimens of high scientific interest.
Mammalia.—The most important items under this head are: (1) a very fine skeleton of the killer-whale (Orca pacifica), which was stranded near Wanganui, and secured for the Museum through the kindness of Mr. S. H. Drew; (2) skins of the sea-lion (Otaria hookeri), from the Auckland Islands, and a skeleton of the sea-elephant (Morunga elephantina), collected by Mr. Burton, Taxidermist to the Museum.
Aves.—Amongst the birds recently added to the collections, and specially worthy of notice, are (1) a very fine capercailzie (Tetrao urogallus), purchased by Dr. Hector;. (2) a series of gannets (Dysporus serrator), showing the nestling, young in the first year's plumage, and the adult, obtained at Gannet Island, and presented by Captain Fairchild, of the Government steamer “Hinemoa”; (3) specimens of the merganser (Mergus australis), the flightless duck (Nesonetta aucklandica), and a series of shags, collected at the Auckland Islands by Mr. Burton.
Pisces.—(1) A cask of Australian fishes, received in exchange from the Curator of the Australian Museum; (2) a fine specimen of Ophisurus serpens from Mahia Lagoon, captured and presented by Mr. J. Cunningham; (3) a splendid collection, consisting of 205 specimens, illustrative of the Ichthyology of North America, presented by the United States National Museum;- have been received and placed in the “stock room” until accommodation can be provided in the Museum.
Reptilia.—A magnificent collection of North American reptiles, comprising 50 species and 92 specimens, has been received from the United States National Museum, but, like the fishes, cannot be displayed for want of proper accommodation.
Invertebrata.—The additions to this section have been somewhat extensive, the most noticeable being (1) specimens of Glaucus antlanticus and G. pacificus, presented by Captain Renaut; (2) a very large specimen of the
common eight-armed cuttlefish (Octopus maorum); (3) a fine collection, comprising 183 species of the marine Invertebrata of North America, presented by the United States Fish Commission.
Very few additions have been made under this head, but the extensive collections sent to the Sydney and Melbourne Exhibitions have been replaced in the cases, as far as space will allow; but here, as in all other parts of the Museum, the accommodation is sadly deficient.
A large collection of Indian articles, consisting of mats, baskets, earthen ware, etc., has been presented by the Executive Commission for India at the Melbourne Exhibition.
A series of physical and geological maps of the colony were exhibited, together with sections and plans illustrative of the gold and coal mines and other mineral resources. As evidence in support of these was a collection of rocks, minerals and fossils, numbering nearly 3,000 specimens, with catalogues, reports, and monographs, on the various branches of the subject. The collections were very carefully studied by a jury of scientific men, and their report will appear in the official records of the Exhibition. The collection was awarded a first-class certificate and a silver medal. The preparation of these exhibits required the expenditure of much time and labour, but this was warranted by the opportunity which it afforded of bringing prominently before the public the results of the scientific investigations which have been made of the resources of the colony.
During the past summer the Alpine ranges west of the Wanaka Lake, which afforded so many new species of plants when first botanically explored by Dr. Hector and Mr. Buchanan in 1862, have again been visited by the latter collector, assisted by Mr. A. McKay, who was at work on the geological survey of the same district, and the result has been the addition to the Colonial Herbarium of 25,000 specimens, some of which are wholly new species, and nearly all rare and valuable for purposes of exchange. Unfortunately the arrangement in the Museum for the preservation of the herbarium will not be satisfactory until there has been a considerable expenditure in providing proper insect-proof cabinets. Owing to the want of cabinets, the valuable collection of 28,000 specimens of plants presented by the Trustees of the British Museum, in 1876, still remains in the original packing-cases, and is not accessible for reference and study.
During the year upwards of 7,000 specimens of fossils, collected in the course of the Geological Survey, have been placed in the Museum, and a
large amount of work has been done towards the critical examination of the whole collections, preparatory to their publication. The collection of foreign fossils has received extensive additions, particularly nine cases presented by the Trustees of the British Museum, which are not yet unpacked.