Toitu Otago Settlers Museum curator Sean Brosnahan with a conch shell uncovered when the Wall Street Mall was being developed. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Whenever Dunedin historian and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
curator Sean Brosnahan visits the Wall Street Mall, he thinks
of the people who lived in the area about 150 years ago.
Some of those individual faces and voices from the past are
flickering back to life in a striking new Ghosts of Wall
Street exhibition which is being developed, away from public
view, at the museum.
The museum show was inspired by the discovery in 2008, during
preparations for the mall, of a historic timber causeway,
initially developed in the 1850s to enable passing
pedestrians to avoid sinking up to their knees in mud.
In those days, particularly before more money started flowing
with the gold rushes of the 1860s, Dunedin was known as
Life for pedestrians was challenging, and manuka and other
wood was laid down in a footpath, added to over several
decades, to lift pedestrians out of what was initially a
The Ghosts of Wall Street exhibition embodies a ''time
tunnel'' concept, and several audiovisual displays are being
Mr Brosnahan said the museum display offered a ''chance to
`drill down' through through the historic layers'' of
Dunedin's central business district and to discover ''how
ordinary Dunedin people went about their life there in times
''The things they dropped, lost, or threw away are put on
show here, not as the `rubbish' they regarded them as in
discarding them, but as precious objects.''
Using historical detective work, he has investigated why a
large white conch shell, found in Pacific islands but not in
New Zealand waters, had been dug up in the area.
Through ''informed speculation'', he has linked the find with
the Lo Keongs, a Chinese family who in the 19th century ran a
novelty shop that was part of the extended block of which the
modern mall is part.
Often objects from elsewhere in the Pacific were shipped in
to be sold at such outlets.
Matilda Lo Keong was an early pioneer of Dunedin's Chinese
community, and the first full-blooded Chinese woman known to
have come to New Zealand.
She arrived arrived in Dunedin in 1873, following her
marriage in Australia to Dunedin fancy-goods merchant Joseph
In one audiovisual display being developed at the museum,
what appears to be a sepia-tinted photograph of a historic
Dunedin scene springs unexpectedly to life, with an actress
recapturing an impression of Mrs Lo Keong, who was a kindly
but determined woman who was active with her husband in the
Dunedin Chinese Mission Church.
Museum collections manager Claire Nodder said she expected
the museum show would be completed in about four to six