Canterbury Museum has a rich and fascinating history, and an exciting future.
Situated in Christchurch’s Cultural Precinct, the Museum is housed in a beautiful stone building that was opened in 1870.
The first director of the Museum was Julius Haast. Haast was also the surveyor-general of Canterbury from 1861 to 1871 and several places in New Zealand are named for him, including Haast Pass, the Haast River and the town of Haast. He also named the Franz Josef Glacier after the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Canterbury Museum is still world-renowned for its natural and human historycollections
Exchanges, mainly of moa bones and bird skins, with overseas museums allowed Haast to form the basis of Canterbury Museum’s collection, and in his day it was probably the leading museum in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Museum building itself is fascinating, and was originally designed by B W Mountfort. When the Canterbury Pilgrims arrived on 16 December 1850 Mountfort was one of the first settlers ashore and he lived and worked in Canterbury for the rest of his life. As an architect he designed most of the public buildings that give Christchurch its distinctive Gothic Revival character, including the Museum and the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings,
Canterbury Museum’s original portico is still used as the entrance today and around its columns you can see a delightful array of animal faces peeping out from a background of leaves, all carved in Oamaru stone. The inscription over the entrance was suggested by William Rolleston as being a suitable text and was added by Claudius Brassington in 1896. It is a passage from Job 26.14, which reads, Lo these are parts of His ways but how little a portion is heard of Him.
They are open every day (except Christmas Day)
Summer hours (October – March)
9.00 am – 5.30 pm
Winter hours (April – September)
9.00 am – 5.00 pm
General admission to the Museum is free, donations are greatly appreciated.
Discovery entry is $2.00 per person, free entry for children under three.