The Canterbury Museum is a museum located in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in the city's Cultural Precinct.[1] The museum was established in 1867 with Julius von Haast – whose collection formed its core – as its first director.[2] The building is registered as a "Historic Place – Category I " by Heritage New Zealand.[3]

Canterbury Museum
Canterbury Museum 01.jpg
Canterbury Museum in 2017
General information
Architectural styleGothic Revival
LocationChristchurch, New Zealand
AddressRolleston Avenue
Inaugurated1870 (first part of building)
Renovatedmid 1990s
Design and construction
ArchitectBenjamin Mountfort
Designated25 September 1986
Reference no.290


The title curator and director has been used interchangeably during the history of Canterbury Museum. Von Haast was the museum's inaugural director; Haast died in 1887.[4] Following Haast's death, Frederick Wollaston Hutton was acting director[5][6] until Henry Ogg Forbes took on a permanent position in December 1888 upon his return from England.[7] In August 1892, Forbes permanently moved to England,[7] and Hutton was appointed full director from May 1892 until October 1905. Hutton applied for leave to travel to England, and Charles Chilton was acting director from March 1905; Hutton died on his return journey from England[6] and Chilton retained his acting role until April 1906, when Edgar Ravenswood Waite received a permanent appointment.[8] Waite was director for eight years until March 1914, when he took the equivalent role at the South Australian Museum.[9]

Robert Speight, who had already been acting director in 1911, was appointed as Waite's successor in March 1914. Speight retired from this role in November 1935.[10] Speight was succeeded by two acting directors who worked alongside one another; the geologist Robin Allan, and the zoologist Edgar Percival.[5] They were succeeded by Robert Falla, who commenced his role on 1 March 1937[11] and who was director until 1947, when he accepted the same position at the Dominion Museum in Wellington.[12] Walter Reginald Brock Oliver was acting director from November 1947 to September 1948. Roger Duff, who had been acting director on several occasions during Falla's tenure prior to Oliver, succeeded Falla as director from September 1948 until his sudden death on 30 October 1978.[5][13] John Crum Wilson succeeded Duff as acting director from October 1978 to February 1979, and then as full director until February 1983.[5] The archaeologist Michael Malthus Trotter succeeded him as director from March 1983 to December 1995. Stephen Phillips had an interim position from January to March 1996 until the current director, Anthony Wright, was appointed in March 1996.[5]


The building, a Gothic Revival constructed on a design by Benjamin Mountfort, opened in 1870.[2] Two years after its opening, the single-storey building was expanded with an additional floor in the Victorian Gothic style. The museum continued to grow over the next decade, with an addition built on in 1876 and an interior courtyard roofed in 1882. In 1958, a new wing was added adjacent to Christ's College, and another was built on in 1977. The building was strengthened in the mid-1990s and a four-storey block was added in 1995.

Earthquake impactEdit

The museum sustained minor damage to its façade during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, but remains structurally sound. This can perhaps be attributed to the progressive strengthening and renovating of the buildings to earthquake standards between 1987 and 1995.[14] An estimated 95% of the collections were unharmed.[15] The statue of William Rolleston, located at the front of the museum, toppled off its plinth during the quake.[16] The museum reopened on 2 September 2011.[17][18]



  1. ^ Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Virtual Tourist.
  2. ^ a b "The Canterbury Museum". Canterbury Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Canterbury Museum (19th century portion)". The Register. New Zealand Historic PlacesTrust. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  4. ^ Maling, Peter B. "Haast, Johann Franz Julius von". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Hiller, Norton; Pollard, Simon (December 2007). Records of the Canterbury Museum (PDF). 21. Canterbury Museum. ISSN 0370-3878. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b Parton, H. N. "Hutton, Frederick Wollaston". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  7. ^ a b Mennell, Philip (1892). "Forbes, Henry Ogg" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ Pilgrim, R. L. C. "Chilton, Charles". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  9. ^ Glover, C. J. M. (1990). "Waite, Edgar Ravenswood (1866–1928)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 12. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  10. ^ Gage, Maxwell. "Robert Speight". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Canterbury Museum". The Evening Post. CXXII (132). 1 December 1936. p. 7. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  12. ^ Dell, R. K. "Falla, Robert Alexander". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  13. ^ Davidson, Janet. "Roger Shepherd Duff". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  14. ^ "The Canterbury Museum". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  15. ^ Gates, Charlie; Moore, Christopher. "Christchurch Art Gallery built to highest standard". The Press. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  16. ^ Saunders, Kate (28 February 2011). "Broken City". Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  17. ^ "The Museum is opening!". Canterbury Museum (Press release). Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  18. ^ "Canterbury Museum 'Will Bring People Back'". The Press. Retrieved 2 September 2011.

External linksEdit