Abstract Of Annual Report.
The number of members on the roll on the 1st February, 1897, was 173, of whom fifteen are life members and 158 annual subscribers. Twelve new members have been elected during the year; but, on the other hand, eleven names have been removed—one from death, five
from resignation, and five from non-payment of subscription for more than two consecutive years. The deceased gentleman is Mr. Camille Malfroy, so well known from his ingenious experiments on the mode of controlling the action of the smaller geysers at Rotorua.
Full particulars respecting, the financial position of the Institute are given in the balance-sheets appended to this report, but for the sake of clearness it is advisable to give a brief summary here. The total revenue, excluding the balance of £60 9s. 1d. brought from last year, has been £1,207 7s. 8d. The receipts for the previous year, which were much below the average, were £877 13s. 3d., so that there is an increase of £329 14s. 5d. This is mainly due to the enlarged receipts from the Museum endowment—presently to be alluded to—and the payment of some arrears of interest which would, if paid when due, have been included in last year's balance-sheet. Comparing the separate items, it may be noted that the receipts from the invested funds of the Costley bequest stand at £499 5s., as against £388 9s. 7d. for 1895–96; the Museum endowment has yielded £569 12s. 2d., the amount for the previous year being £340; while the sum derived from the members' subscriptions is almost the same as that credited in last year's balance-sheet. The total expenditure has been £1,102 18s. 11d., leaving a credit balance of £164 17s. 10d. in the Bank of New Zealand. The gratifying increase in the revenue has permitted the Council to repay the balance of £200 owing to the Investment Account on the purchase of the Maori-house; and also to carry out some long-needed improvements in the Museum.
The resumption of gold-mining in the Cape Colville Peninsula has resulted in the greater portion of the Waikanae Block, near Cabbage Bay, being taken up under mining lease. The receipts from this source have amounted to over £200, forming a very welcome-addition to the Society's funds. With this exception, there is little to report concerning the endowments. Few sales have been effected; in fact, there appears to be little chance of the disposal of the remainder Of the endowment at satisfactory prices. From time to time the Crown Lands Board have handed over the rents of those sections which are leased; and the interest on the invested funds of the endowment has been regularly received.
Ten meetings have been held during the year, at which twenty papers were read and discussed.
With the exception of Christmas Day, and a short period devoted to cleaning and rearrangement, the Museum has been open to the public on every day during the year. The attendance of visitors has been satisfactory, and shows a considerable increase, so fax as can be judged from the data in the possession of the Curator. On Sunday afternoons the visitors are regularly counted, the register kept by the attendant showing that 12,388 persons entered the building on that day, or an average of 288 for each Sunday. This shows an increase of 2,234 on the number for the previous year. On week-days the visitors can only be occasionally counted; but the daily average is estimated to be about 105. The approximate week-day attendance would consequently be 32,865, and the total for the whole year 45,253. The largest attendance recorded on any one day was 413, on the 25th May (Queen's Birthday).
For some time past the Council have been sensible that a further enlargement of the Museum could not be long postponed. At present the centre of the main hall is chiefly occupied by the collection of plaster coasts of Greek statues, presented by Mr. T. Russell, C.M.G. This collection, in many respects an admirable one, is altogether out of place in its present situation, surrounded by stuffed birds and animals, and of necessity arranged in such a manner that its use by art students is greatly limited. Its presence gives an incongruous appearance to the hall.
while it effectually prevents the extension and proper arrangement of the Natural History Department. Under these circumstances the Council have determined to erect a new hall, 50ft. square, on the eastern side of the Ethnographical Hall, with which it will be connected by an archway. It will contain the Russell collection of statues, and can also be used for those meetings of the Institute likely to attract a larger audience than can be accommodated in the present lecture-room. Plans of the building have been prepared by Mr. Bartley, and a contract for its erection has just been taken for the sum of £800.
When the statues are transferred to the new hall it is the intention of the Council to fill the space which they at present occupy with groups of the larger mammals, arranged in suitable glass cases. The work will of necessity extend over some years, but when completed will add largely to the general appearance of the Museum and its usefulness to the public. In connection with this subject, the Council have great pleasure in informing the members that Mr. T. Russell has recently offered, through a member of the Council visiting London, to expend the sum of £100 in any direction which the Council might consider of advantage to the Museum. The Council have communicated with Mr. Russell, thanking him for his liberal and generous offer, and suggesting that his donation might be used to procure a group of the larger Carnivora.
Numerous donations have been received during the year. So far as regards the additions to the Zoological Department, it has been impossible to do more than pack up the specimens as they are received, for, until the pending alterations to the Museum are completed, room cannot be found for their exhibition. Among the New Zealand birds added to the collection are some remarkably fine specimens of the “roa,” or large kiwi, from Stewart Island, obtained by purchase; a pair of skins of a rare cormorant (Phalacrocorax stictocephalus) and a skua gull, presented by Mr. A. T. Pycroft; a specimen of the true curlew (Numenius cyanopus), shot in the Manukau Harbour, being the first recorded instance of its occurrence in the Auckland district, presented by Mr. Newell; and a small, but highly-interesting, collection of bird-skins from the Chatham Islands, obtained by purchase.
A valuable collection of minerals, including many specimens of great beauty, has been purchased from Professor H. A. Ward, of Rochester, U.S.A. The Museum is also indebted to Mr. J. A. Pond, Mr. J. Park, and Mr. J. Chambers for several interesting ores and minerals from the Thames Goldfields.
The Ethnological Hall, and especially that part of it devoted to the Maori collection, continues to attract a large number of visitors, particularly among the class of tourists and travellers. A considerable number of small additions have been made during the year, mostly by purchase, and it is obvious that additional case-accommodation will soon be required.
Early in the year the Council sanctioned the expenditure of from £60 to £70 in the purchase of standard scientific works, a list of which is appended. Special attention may be drawn to D'Urville's “Voyage of the ‘Astrolabe’”; to the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, of which important publication the society now possesses the whole of the parts which have so far appeared; and to an almost complete set of Hooker's “Icones Plantarum,” a work indispensable to New Zealand botanists from the large number of native plants figured therein. The Council have great pleasure in stating that they have received an intimation to the effect that the Imperial Government have decided to present to the library a complete set of the publications of the “Challenger” Expedition. The importance of this edition to the library can hardly be overestimated, containing, as it does, valuable monographs in almost every branch of zoological science. The usual exchanges and presentations
from foreign societies have also been received, together with some donations from private individuals.
The steps which have been taken by the Government to constitute the Little Barrier Island a reserve for the preservation of the fauna and flora of New Zealand are no doubt fresh in the recollection of members. Soon after the last annual meeting the Council received a communication from the Government asking whether the Institute would undertake the management of the island, the Crown Lands Department contributing a yearly grant to defray the necessary expenses. As the proposal to reserve the island emanated from the Institute, and has always had its active support and sympathy, the Council at once stated their willingness to undertake the work. The negotiations lingered, however, and it was not until the end of the year that the island was formally handed over, together with a grant of £200 for the first year's expenses. Mr. R. H. Shakespear has been appointed curator, and left for the island early in the month of January. A residence is urgently wanted, and the Council trust that the Government will act on their representations and erect one before the winter sets in.
A visit of inspection has proved that most of the rarer birds known to inhabit the island still linger thereon, in some cases in fair numbers. Now that Maoris and Europeans have practically left the island, and now that a caretaker armed with sufficient powers to prevent the landing of unauthorised persons is residing there, it is hoped that the depredations of collectors will be effectually stopped. Fortunately, wild cats and other vermin appear to be scarce, and there is every probability that the island may for many years afford a secure home to species that have either disappeared or will shortly disappear from the mainland.
In conclusion, the Council have once more to thank the members and many others for the aid and encouragement which they have given to the objects of the Institute, and which they trust will be again freely rendered during the coming year.