The week in detail: the museums, the mittens and the mill

Every day of the week, The detail makes sense of big news.

This week we’ve covered the work of repatriating Maori and Moriori remains from overseas museums, the little wasp that could help us in our efforts to control an invasive weed, the phenomenon known as spontaneous memorialization that sees us leaving flowers for people we’ve never met, how the Kawerau factory lockdown is affecting the city, and listed four of our most famous animals deserving of immortalization in bronze.

Whakarongo may all the episodes you might have missed.

The evolution of museums – returning what has been taken

Our national museum, Te Papa, is expected to make a big announcement soon regarding a major repatriation of Vienna’s Natural History Museum.

Maui Solomon and Te Arikirangi Mamaku lead the delegation to Te Papa’s marae, carrying the karāpuna (ancestors), July 2022.
Photo: your daddy

It concludes an iwi and hapū Māori campaign waged since the end of World War II.

It’s all part of a project to search for Maori and Moriori remains in museums and private collections around the world, identify their iwi and bring them back. Since its debut in 2003, between 700 and 800 bone remains and tā moko have been returned.

Museums are changing, with new policies on the return of objects of cultural significance. Germany and France are at the forefront of efforts to return former colonies their treasures. But Britain, the greatest power of all, not so much.

Alexia Russell spoke with Te Papa’s Acting Repatriation Manager, Te Arikirangi Mamaku-Ironside, and Auckland Museum’s Director of Research and Collections, David Reeves.

War on weed – could a wasp join the fight?

The Sydney golden wattle is native to southeastern Australia. It was originally introduced to New Zealand in the late 19th century for ornamental purposes.

Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae - an Australian wasp that attacks buds.

Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae – an Australian galliform bud wasp
Photo: Supplied/Horizons

But it has become invasive and in a number of coastal areas and wetlands across the country it is becoming a problem.

One way to control invasive species is to introduce yet another species that basically feeds on the thing you don’t like – a technique called biological control.

And the control agent in this case? A tiny alien wasp with the power to stifle the Acacia’s reproductive powers.

Spontaneous Remembrance: Sharing Our Grief with the World

Princess Diana’s death 25 years ago and the 2019 Christchurch mosque terror attack have something strange in common. This is how the general public reacted and cried, a phenomenon called spontaneous memorialization.

Princess Diana during her visit to Bonn on November 15, 1987.

Princess Diana during her visit to Bonn on November 15, 1987.
Photo: Sven Simon/ dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP

These two tragic events have united millions of mourners around the world, mourning the loss of people they never knew.

The dead person is a symbol of something else, says Susan Wardell, who teaches social anthropology at the University of Otago.

Kawerau factory strike: The cracks that cannot be covered up

Sharon Brettkelly speaks to Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell and Kawerau Mill worker Bill George about the impact of the lockdown at the town of Bay of Plenty toilet paper factory, now in its fifth week and affects 145 workers.

Bay of Plenty Times reports developments in the Kawerau factory lockdown.

Bay of Plenty Times reports developments in the Kawerau factory lockdown.
Photo: RNZ Mediawatch

The two sides are in talks to end the months-long pay dispute, but so far there is no solution. The workers want a raise to match annual inflation of 7.3%, but the factory’s Swedish owner, Essity, is offering 3% a year for the next three years, plus a lump sum of $4,500.

The conflict has brought back bad memories in the town of the last big lockout in 1986 which lasted three months, and which worries Campbell who has lived all his 69 years in the town he calls the Kingdom of Kawerau.

Mittens, get moving: the most emblematic animals of Aotearoa

Stop the presses: Mittens could have a statue on Wellington’s waterfront.

On the left, Mittens the cat is sitting on someone's lap.  He has a golden collar.  He looks distant.  On the right is an image of Sirocco the kākāpō unsuccessfully trying to mate with a man's head.  The man laughs.

Mittens the cat (left) and Sirocco the kākāpō.
Photo: Supplied / Sara Larcombe DOC

If you’re unfamiliar, Mittens is a Turkish Angora cat who lived in Wellington for many years before moving to Auckland. He roamed the streets with cheerful abandon, barged into unsuspecting people’s homes, and did it while possessing all the standard feline charms of being cute and fluffy.

But a statue? As neutral observers, The detail solicits the other deserving candidates to be immortalized in bronze: Inky the octopus, Sirocco the Kākāpō, Happy Feet the emperor penguin and Toa the baby orc.

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