At the annual meeting, 24th February, 1919, the annual report of the Council was read and adopted.
In presenting the fifty-first annual report of the Auckland Institute and Museum the Council can once more direct attention to the steady progress of the society, and the increasing interest taken in its operations by the community.
It is also satisfactory to state that this year has witnessed the successful completion of the attempt to obtain a new site for the Museum, in a situation where it is possible to erect a building free from the many drawbacks and deficiencies of the existing site, and where there is not only room for present needs, but ample space for future extension.
Members.—Mainly through the activity of the Hon. E. Mitchelson and Mr. H. E. Vaile, forty-eight new members have been elected during the year. On the other hand, thirty-six names have been withdrawn from the roll—eighteen from death, eleven by resignation, and seven by non-payment of subscription for more than two consecutive years. The net gain has thus been twelve, the number on the roll at the present time being 462. It may be incidentally mentioned that not one of the other societies incorporated with the New Zealand Institute has a members roll of over 200.
The number of members removed by death is far above the average, and includes several who have long been in association with the Institute. Mr. C. Cooper served upon the Council from 1886 to 1894, and contributed several papers on conchological subjects; Mr. T. Buddle, Mr. M. Casey, Mr. J. W. Ellis, Mr. H. Larkin, and Mr. H. H. Metcalfe have all been of considerable service to the society in one direction or another. It should be mentioned that the Institute still retains on its roll, as dormant honorary members, all those of its subscribers who are at present serving their King and country in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, the number of such being twenty-one.
Finance.—The total revenue of the Working Account, excluding the balance in hand at the beginning of the year, has been £1,678 13s. 9d. This is a little under last year's amount, the difference being altogether due to a temporary delay in the payment of certain items of interest on investments. Examining the various headings, it will be seen that the members' subscriptions have yielded £437 17s., against £420 contributed last year, and being the largest sum yet received from that source of income. The receipts from the Museum Endowment, consisting of rents and interest, have amounted to £656 15s. 6d., the previous year's contribution being £713 12s. 11d. The invested funds of the Costley Bequest have provided £432 17s. 6d., the amount for the previous year being £453 18s. 1d. The total expenditure has been £1,717 6s. 9d., being somewhat smaller than last year's amount, which totalled £1,763 11s. 4d. It is satisfactory to state that a sum of £200 has been paid in final liquidation of the cost of fitting up the foreign ethnographic hall. The cash balance in hand at the present time amounts to £127 7s. 6d.
There is little to report respecting the invested funds of the Institute, which have been increased during the year by the sum of £76 0s. 2d., mostly obtained from the sale of some small endowments. The total amount now stands at £22,945 13s. 9d., almost the whole of which is satisfactorily placed in specially selected mortgages or municipal debentures.
Members are aware that during the last session of Parliament the Institute submitted a petition praying for the refund of a sum of £912, paid under protest as mortgage-tax, on the ground that the income of the Institute, as a scientific body not carried on for private pecuniary profit, was not liable for taxation. The Petitions Committee upheld the contention of the Institute, and recommended the petition to the “favourable consideration of the Government.” Notwithstanding this, the Cabinet has decided that “after careful consideration, it was regretted that no action could be taken in the matter.”
Meetings.—At the beginning of the session a Meetings Committee was appointed to ascertain how far the Institute could take a more active interest in the dissemination of scientific knowledge by means of lectures. After consideration it was decided to increase the number of lectures, and also to provide, in a tentative manner, for the introduction of courses of lectures in cases where it was obvious that the subject was
too extensive for proper treatment within the scope of a single lecture. These changes proved decidedly popular, and led to a considerable increase in the attendance. The following is a list of the lectures and papers contributed: “The Story of the Constellations,” by G. Aldridge; “Alcohol in its Industrial and Scientific Aspects,” by A. Wyllie, Electrical Engineer to the City of Auckland; ‘Recent Scientific Thought concerning Light and the Ether, Part I,” by E V Miller, “Recent Scientific Thought concerning Light and the Ether, Part II,” by E. V Miller; “The Theatie and Stage Effects in Shakespear's Time,” by Professor C. W. Egerton, M.A., “Combustion, Part I.” by Professor F. P. Worley, M.Sc., “Combustion, Part II,” by Professor F. P. Worley, M.Sc; “House-flies and Public Health,” by Professor J C. Johnson, M.Sc.; “The Fossiliferous Beds at Kawa, Port Waikato,” by J. A. Bartrum, “New Fossil Mollusca,” by J A. Bartrum; “Some Recent Additions to the New Zealand Flora,” by T F Cheeseman, “Contributions to a Knowledge of the New Zealand Flora, Part VI,” by T. F. Cheeseman, “Descriptions of New Native Flowering-plants,” by D. Petrie. “A New Variety of Pleris macilenta,” by H Carse.
Library.—Last October, when it became evident that the end of the war was drawing near, an unusually large order was sent to the society's London agents. The books may be expected about the middle of March or early in April, and will be welcomed by frequenters of the library. It is hoped to forward another order shortly after the arrival of the first. The magazines and serial publications subscribed to have been regularly received, and made available for the use of members. A consider able expenditure has been incuried in binding the back numbers of these publications, over sixty volumes having been placed in the library from that source alone. The usual presentations and exchanges have been received from foreign societies, and several donations from private individuals have been added to the library
No department of the Institute suffers more from the want of room than the library, and now that the purchase of books has been resumed the need of accommodation will soon become a burning question.
Museum —The recent epidemic of influenza has greatly affected the attendance at the Museum. In the first place, it necessitated the closing of the institution from the 3rd November to the 1st December, or nearly a full month; and after the reopening it was at least another month before the attendance became normal. Taking the Sunday visitors first, the register kept by the attendant shows that 20,842 people entered the building on that day, being an average of 453 for each Sunday. The greatest attendance was 934 on the 7th July, and the smallest 75 on the 28th April, an exceedingly wet day. On the eight chief holidays of the year the total number of visitors was 6,801, being a daily average of 850. The largest attendance on any single holiday was 1,246 on Labour Day, closely followed by 1,232 on King's Birthday, and 1,145 on Easter Monday. On ordinary week-days the visitors can only be occasionally counted; but the daily average is believed to be not less than 200, which would make a total of 55,000, after deducting the days on which the Museum was closed on account of the epidemic. Adding to this number that already given for Sundays and holidays, the total number of visitors for the whole year can be stated at 82,643. Last year the estimate was 87,350.
In the present congested state of a large portion of the Museum it is difficult to make any satisfactory progress, or to exhibit more than a small proportion of the additions that are regularly being received. A considerable amount of work has been done in the Maori Hall in the direction of rearranging the larger carvings on the eastern wall. By erecting a new framework over the show-cases space has been obtained for the exhibition of several fresh carvings of interest, while the general appearance has been much improved. During the coming season it is intended to carry out a similar improvement on the western side of the hall. It should be stated that the labelling of the Maori Hall has been practically completed, only a few recent additions being now without printed descriptive labels.
Numerous additions and donations have been received; but only the more important can be mentioned here. Prominent is a magnificent pare, or carved architrave for the doorway of a Maori house, evidently of great age, and in perfect condition. It was dug up in a peat swamp in the Hauraki Plains, and has been deposited for a long period by the finder, Mr. L. Carter, together with several other interesting articles.
An ancient house-carving, found in the mud of a branch of the Kaipara River, and presenting several unusual features, has been kindly donated by Mr. A. S. Bankart. It is presumed to be the work of the now extinct Waiohua Tribe, which once occupied the whole of the district between the Auckland Isthmus and the Kaipara River.
Other noteworthy additions to the ethnographical collections comprise several valuable carvings deposited by Mr. A. Eady, who has already placed many specimens
in the Museum; a fine carved burial-chest, purchased from Mr. E. Spencer; a considerable number of Maori and Polynesian articles presented by Mr. G. Graham, who for many years has been a constant contributor to the Museum; a collection of 109 Melanesian and Polynesian specimens purchased from Archdeacon Comins; and, finally, an elaborate gold-lacquered Japanese cabinet presented by Mr. H. Shaw.
Among the war relics presented during the year the first place must be given to an interesting collection formed by Mr. C. J. Parr, C.M.G., during his recent visit to the western front, and which includes several noteworthy articles. Several contributions of value have also been received from Colonel Boscawen, Mr. H. Norton, Mr. F. G. Calver, and others.
Among the zoological specimens the following may be mentioned: An excellent skin of a lion, from a specimen that died at the Onehunga Zoo, presented by the proprietor, Mr. J. J. Boyd; a specimen of the sooty tern (Sterna fuliginosa), driven in by the cyclonic storm on the 20th March, and presented by Mr. H. F. Smith. This bird has not been previously noticed on the mainland of New Zealand. The severe weather experienced during the whole of the month of July drove in many thousands of oceanic dove-petrels, birds very seldom seen on the mainland. Through the kindness of several correspondents in the country the Museum has received an excellent series of these pretty little birds.
In the natural-history department Mr. Griffin has completed the elaborate group illustrating the breeding habits of the black-fronted tern (Sterna frontalis), referred to in last year's report as being under preparation, and it is now on exhibition. He has also mounted in excellent style the head of the well-known racehorse Carbine, which has been presented to the Museum by the Auckland Racing Club. At present he is engaged in setting up a remarkably fine specimen of the sea-leopard, stranded some-little time ago in the Manukau Harbour. Various other natural-history specimens have been prepared and mounted during the year, in addition to work in other departments of the Museum.
Drawbacks and Deficiencies of the Present Museum.—In many successive annual reports it has been the duty of the Council to speak more or less openly in regard to the limitations and deficiencies of the present buildings, and to show how much these have interfered with the work of the Museum, and have stood in the way of its proper expansion. Now that there are prospects of better accommodation in the future it seems advisable to describe shortly the obstacles that should be removed, and the most desirable improvements to be effected.
In the first place, there is no department of the Museum that has sufficient room for exhibition purposes. With regard to the ethnographical collections, the Curator-has frequently pointed out how greatly the teaching value of the Maori portion would be improved, and its appearance enhanced, if it were possible to remove the carved houses, canoes, and other large objects from their present quarters and place them in a separate hall, where they could be treated as occupying the central courtyard of a Maori village, similar to one of those that in past days stood on the shore of the Waitemata Harbour. Similarly, the Polynesian collection is obviously overcrowded, although the visitor may not know that all recent collections are packed away in store-boxes.
Turning to the natural-history department, a glance at the show-case containing the New Zealand birds will prove that no space remains for further additions. The preparation of special groups illustrating the life-history of New Zealand birds, which have proved to be such popular exhibits, has had to be suspended, there being no available space in which to place the show-cases. A small amount of room has been reserved for the collection of fishes, now being formed, but with that exception there is no unfilled space. Yet in some sections, such as insects and other invertebrates, hardly anything has been done. No attempt has yet been made to form a botanical museum. The geological and mineralogical collections require many additions, and the substitution of better specimens for most of those exhibited.
One of the most disturbing facts connected with the present overcrowded condition of the Museum is that several large collections of natural-history specimens at present in the hands of private owners would be gladly presented if there was a reasonable probability that such could be suitably exhibited, and made available for scientific study and research These collections have been patiently formed by the labour of many years, and it would be little less than a calamity if the chance of obtaining them for Auckland should be lost.
The present want of accommodation and equipment for collecting, research, and the convenience of visitors is a most serious drawback. The Museum has no proper-storerooms, no accommodation for students who may wish to make use of the collections; no rooms in which specimens can be sorted, examined, and determined, or packed away as duplicates. There is no inquiry-room where strangers in search of information can be received and their questions answered; nor are there any retiring-rooms where-visitors
can leave their belongings, or have an opportunity of consuming a hasty lunch. All progressive Museums provide the above adjuncts, and their want has long been felt in Auckland. To sum up, no satisfactory progress in the Museum can be hoped for until these drawbacks and deficiencies are removed. This can only be done in a much larger, better planned, and more completely equipped building.
The Need for a New Building.—In last year's report the Council showed that the existing site of the Museum was not large enough for present requirements, to say nothing of future needs. It was also proved that the cost of enlarging the site by the purchase of adjoining land was altogether beyond the means of the Institute, even if there was any prospect of financing a scheme involving the purchase of expensive city property as well as the erection of new buildings. The inevitable conclusion was the removal of the Museum from its present position. After much consideration it was decided to apply to the City Council for a site on Observatory Hill, in the Auckland Domain, a situation which possesses the fundamental advantages of room for future expansion, decreased risk of fire, and freedom from dust and smoke. The City Council, desirous to assist the Institute in its search for a new home, unanimously agreed to give the necessary permission, subject to the Council of the Institute promoting any legislation that might be required. The result of this action was reported to the last annual meeting, and was confirmed by a very large majority.
As the solicitors to both the City Council and the Institute were of opinion that a validating Act was necessary, arrangements were at once made for the drafting of such, the terms being agreed upon at a conference of the two bodies. Under this Act power is given to sell the present site and apply the proceeds towards the erection of a new Museum in the Domain; while the City Council receives authority to lease to the Institute, at a nominal rent, an area of nearly 3 acres on Observatory Hill. It is also provided that the Mayor, ex officio, and two members of the City Council annually appointed shall in future represent the city on the Council of the Institute.
The Act, which bears the title of. “The Auckland Institute and Museum Site Empowering Act,” was placed in the charge of Mr. C. J. Parr, C.M.G., and, being practically unopposed, had a rapid passage through Parliament. It has since received the Governor's assent, and is now law. The Council have great pleasure in stating that from the first inception of the scheme for transferring the Museum to the Domain up to the present time no opposition of any moment has been raised, while many expressions of support have been volunteered. It is doubtful whether any proposal advocating a site for an important public building in Auckland has been so favourably and so generally accepted. In this connection, the Council wish to state their high appreciation of the action of the City Council in so generously acceding to the wishes of the Institute.
As for the character of the site, all that need be said here is that it is in every way suited for the purpose. It has all the advantages of a commanding position, greatly reduced risk of fire, freedom from dust and smoke, and, above all, room for future expansion. Few of the larger Museums of the world are so happily placed. In granting a portion of Observatory Hill as the site of the future Museum for Auckland the city has cheerfully and willingly given of its best. Let the Institute look to itself that full use is made of such great opportunities.
A War Memorial Museum.—Closely allied to the attempt to erect a Museum worthy of the city of Auckland on the slopes of the Domain is the formation of a collection illustrating the share that this country has taken in the Great War. It has long been the aim and hope of the Institute that an important part of the new building to be erected shall consist of a War Memorial Museum, capable of adequately commemorating the trials and hardships, the labour and sacrifice, of the many thousands of soldiers of all classes who have left New Zealand to assist in crushing the German peril Many of these have given up their life in the struggle, others will return maimed and suffering—perhaps never to recover health. Is there to be no “Hall of Memory” in Auckland to keep alive for all time a knowledge of the many brave deeds of these men—to commemorate their dauntless courage and steadfast devotion to duty? The very idea is almost unthinkable—but time is fleeting, and opportunities are being lost.
Election of Officers for 1919.—President—Mr J. H. Gunson, Mayor of Auckland. Vice-Presidents—Hon. E. Mitchelson; Mr. C. J. Parr, C.M.G., M.P. Council—Professor C. W. Egerton, Mr. J. Kenderdine, Mr. T W. Leys, Mr. E. V. Miller, Mr. T. Peacock, Mr. D. Petrie, Professor H. W. Segar, Professor A. P. W. Thomas, Mr. J. H. Upton, Mr. H. E. Vaile, Professor F. P. Worley. Trustees—Mr. T. Peacock, Mr. J. Reid, Professor A. P. W. Thomas, Mr. J. H. Upton, Mr. H. E. Vaile. Secretary and Curator—Mr. T. F. Cheeseman. Auditor—Mr. S. Gray.