Our researchers dedicate hours to broadening the museum.  


Methodical, systematic and creative work to increase our stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society.

Our history is precious and should be documented in all it's glory for our future generations.

Trip of a lifetime for one of our researchers

In June and July 2019 Sharlene will be attending the Open Palace Programme in England.


The Open Palace Programme that Sharlene has been selected to attend in England is a prestigious and unique hands on experience for emergent professionals in the heritage sector. Sharlene will be working alongside consummate professionals at five of the most significant heritage sites in England, identifying and advising practical solutions to crucial issues they are currently tackling. Sites include The Museum of Bath Architecture, Stonehenge, The Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace. Invaluable insights into a range of professional disciplines including building preservation, collections management, interpretation, heritage learning/education and visitor behaviour studies will be gained.

We will bring you a blog of her fantastic journey in the United Kingdom in 2019.

Here is the recent article about her efforts about landowners in the local Katikati Advertiser.

In the 125th year since New Zealand women got the vote, it is

important to understand the context in which their emergence

into full citizenship happened.

One aspect of this is women’s function as property owners, and

how, in settler society their right and obligations were expressed

in formal relationships. For all land-owning women, paying rates

on their real property was an obligation imposed from 1876, when

the Rating Act, the Municipal Act and Counties Act were passed in

the NZ Parliament. Both the Municipal Corporations Act and the

Counties Act gave women ratepayers the right to vote in local

elections and for married women, independent ownership rights

came from the Married Women’s Property Act in 1884.

The relationship between women’s status as ratepayers and married women as property owners is especially interesting in rural areas. A woman’s entitlement to vote for local councillors in 1876 hinged on her appearance on the valuation roll. So if land was listed in the rating records in a woman’s name, she could vote and she was also liable to pay the rates. Sharlene’s research proposes to explore and explain how this legal structure played out in the Tauranga County.


Sharlene is asking the public to provide further information about the named women and the land that was registered under their name in the 1902-1903 Tauranga Country Rate Book.


“What I am hoping to find out from the public is all the extra details about the land the women held in their names. I am interested in how the land came into the women's name, the land use, occupation and education of the women, any maps, plans or titles to the land and how the women then disposed of the land, by sale or will.”


"The women are not strongly represented in public records so the search for private records helps the research and can give a better understanding of the economic and political life of women. Any stories the families may hold about the women and the land would be useful to build up the broader picture and if they know of any political interests."

If you would like to find out more about this current project please find more details here.

Current projects by Sharlene

Help us with this unique Find?

June 2017


The history of migration and colonisation of the pacific has been at times quite contentious; however, there is some agreement of a generally acceptable chronology. At least 40,000 years ago migration from south East Asia spread through what is known as the ‘inter-visible islands’ through New Guinea and into the Solomon island chains. The migration appears to have halted as significantly larger bodies of water separated the islands. Some 36,000 years later, a fresh migration occurred branching out into the far pacific, reaching Tonga and Samoa. These new migrants were the Lapita, the common ancestor of all Polynesians, Micronesians and Austronesian-speaking Melanesians. This extensive migration includes the far Islands of Fiji, Hawaii and New Zealand.




Written by Tim Searancke, BA.


The Western Bay Museum is in possession of an artefact, which is part of the Middlebrook collection that possesses unique characteristics that would suggest that it was not of Maori origin.

The artefact was found on Waihi beach in the late 1930’s, at the time it was hypothesised that it may be of Lapita origin. If this hypothesis is shown to be correct, this artefact could represent the only Lapita artefact found in New Zealand.

I am currently undertaking the task of verifying the origin of this artefact and have reached out to a number of colleagues to aid me in this investigation. I will be sure to post any updates.

We need your help to find out what this beautiful artefact is.  If you have seen anything like or know of any more pieces similar please contact us. 

Observations on this unique find

August 2017


I would like to make a small observation about the 'Unique Find' comments by Tim Searancke. While the object he describes is a unique and special taonga, it has similarities to serpentine pendants found in the south Taranaki/Whanganui & Nelson areas (Whanganui Regional Museum, Auckland Museum, Te Papa collections) and notching similar also to a twin-lobed pendant from Porirua (Whanganui museum) and South Island edge notched serpentine pendants.

The object is unquestionably early, but from the photograph I am certain it was made here in NZ by ancestors of Māori who settled in the Bay of Plenty, and was not brought to NZ from the Western Pacific as he suggests.

Michelle Horwood, Ph.D 

Masters in Archaeology from Otago University, a PhD in Museums Studies from Victoria University and was curator at the Whanganui Regional Museum for 20 years. I currently teach Te Ara Pourewa Graduate Diploma in Heritage & Museum Studies at EIT in Gisborne.

References by Michelle are illustrated in the following:

Anderson, A., Binney, J., & Harris, A. (2014). Tangata whenua: An illustrated history. Wellington: Bridget William Books.

Horwood, M., & Wilson, C. (2008). Te ara tapu, sacred journeys: Whanganui Regional Museum Taonga Māori Collection. Auckland: Random House.

Prickett, N. (1985). The twin-lobed pendant, an archaic artefact from the nelson district. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum, 22, 17-29.


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