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Historian denounces museum exhibition

Historian denounces museum exhibition

AUT University Professor of History, Dr. Paul Moon, has criticised the Russell Museum for its Pou Taharua Exhibition, which opens on Monday 14 December. The Exhibition’s highlight is a piece of wood allegedly from the flagstaff that Hone Heke felled in the mid 1840s, and which the Museum purchased from auctioneers Dunbar Sloane earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

At the time of the sale, Dr. Moon was asked by Dunbar Sloane to give a professional opinion on the authenticity on the piece of wood being put up for sale. He concluded that there was no firm historical evidence linking it with any of the flagstaffs at Russell in 1844-5, and that it was probably a fake. Dr. Moon is concerned over Russell Museum’s claims that the piece of wood it is about to display is a genuine fragment from the flagstaff.

“The simple fact is that there is not one scrap of evidence linking the wood the museum bought with the flagpole at Russell in 1845. The first time that this block of wood appeared was half a century after the event, in the late 1890s. Prior to then, it was not mentioned in any records”, says Dr. Moon.

Dr. Moon points to the lack of documentary history for the piece of wood as a serious concern: “For an object of such historical significance, it should have been referred to in someone’s diary, or in a letter, around the time it was collected from where it was felled. Yet, there is no mention of it at all for over fifty years. This makes its sudden appearance around 1897 dubious to say the least”, he says.

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“What is also worrying is the museum’s claim that each time Heke felled the flagpole at Russell, ‘souvenir hunters made off with pieces’. Again, the evidence for this is scant, and does nothing to authenticate the provenance of the piece of wood they are about to display”.

Dr. Moon believes the Exhibition will prove popular, but hopes that the Museum will correct the information it is releasing on the authenticity of this central exhibit.


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