Mammoth task as Otago Museum stamps assessed

Otago Museum director of collections, research and property services Dave Wright examines New...
Otago Museum director of collections, research and property services Dave Wright examines New Zealand stamps dating back to the 1860s. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Staff at the Otago Museum are about to begin a mammoth task - piecing together all the information they hold about the museum's vast stamp collection and putting the results into electronic form.

It was not known exactly how many individual stamps were in the collection, but with three large, 13 middle-sized and dozens of small albums full, the total was in the "several thousands", exhibits, development and planning director Clare Wilson said yesterday.

They included "rare and beautiful" examples from New Zealand and all parts of the word, some dating back to the birth of postage stamps in 1840.

Most of the collection was donated before 1936, with particularly large donations or bequests from Willi Fels and Hugh Robertson.

In the 1960s, the Hocken Library presented many stamps which had been found in its collections.

Two honorary curators, Mel Carr and Mark Jurisich, work with staff on the maintenance and building of the collection.

Staff had begun scoping the information project, to see how much work would be involved in poring over the albums and the papers and correspondence which went with them, then cataloguing the information on computer.

It was not yet known how long the project would take.

The aim was to ensure the content of the collection and the information which accompanied it was easier to find in the future, Ms Wilson said.

"Occasionally, the stamps make their way into a special exhibition when they help illustrate a story. Once the collection is computerised it should make it easier for stamps to be used."

Collections, research and property services director Dave Wright said staff would not be valuing the stamps.

"We're not interested in that. We don't deal in the commercial market."

Ms Wilson said stamps were still being collected by the museum.

A set of each new release was obtained from New Zealand Post, and philatelists and members of the public also donated stamps and albums.

They were accepted, provided they fitted with the museum's acquisitions policy.

Stamp collecting was something most New Zealanders could relate to, she said.

"It was de rigeur [to have a collection] for a long time and most New Zealanders of a certain age... have a direct connection at some level.

"I am sure there are some treasures out there under beds and in attics."


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