Penguin muff back after 130 years (+ video)

Otago Museum European dress collection honorary curator Dr Jane Malthus takes a closer look at a...
Otago Museum European dress collection honorary curator Dr Jane Malthus takes a closer look at a king penguin-skin muff. Photo by Christine O'Connor.

A king penguin-skin muff has made a ‘‘long journey home'' to Dunedin from Canada, more than 130 years after it was bought in the city.

The muff - intended to keep a woman's hands warm - has been given to the Otago Museum by the great granddaughter of its original owner, John Goodman. He was an English ship's captain who moved to New Zealand, and married Clara Strange in 1875.

Although they settled in Christchurch, Mr Goodman bought the muff from the George St shop of Dunedin furrier J. Constantine as a gift for his wife.

The muff has come to the museum with part of its original packaging.

The Goodman's son Edmund, who moved to Australia, inherited the muff from his parents.

And the muff may have spent about 100 years in Australia. Edmund's daughter-in-law Vera was the next owner. She later moved to Canada to be with her children when she was widowed in 2005.

After her death, her daughters decided to return the muff to Dunedin, and established contact through the museum's internet site.

Otago Museum humanities curator Moira White is ‘‘thrilled'' Laurie Hardy, representing the Goodman family, had ‘‘chosen to return this family heirloom, with its rich history, to Dunedin''.

‘‘We feel privileged they're entrusting it to the museum'', and the item had ‘‘completed its long journey home'', she said.

Museum European dress collection honorary curator Dr Jane Malthus said the muff's bright yellow marking was an uncommon colour of the period and made it an unusual item.

The museum had one other penguin-skin muff in its collection, also from a king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), which was thought to have come from Macquarie Island.

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