Heritage Rescue returns to our screens

02 October 2017
Host Brigid Gallagher and on-screen researcher Justine Treadwell pose with tools as they revitalise the Pahiatua Museum.
Host Brigid Gallagher and on-screen researcher Justine Treadwell get stuck into revitalising the Pahiatua Museum.

The television series that revitalises museums and historic sites around New Zealand is back for a second season, and Arts graduates are right in the thick of it.

Museums and Cultural Heritage graduate Justine Treadwell and Anthropology and Geography graduate Brigid Gallagher are reprising their roles as on-screen researcher and host.

The show's curator Rose Evans also has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Anthropology.

Each week the Heritage Rescue team tackle a museum or historic site in need of help. Working with specialists and local volunteers to redesign their exhibits and spaces, they discover amazing artefacts and little-known stories about people and events that have had a major impact on New Zealand history.

They also bring in experts to show how precious objects should be displayed and cared for. After five days of intense activity, they open the museum doors, and the public are invited to see all the work that's been done.

Justine tracked down local people or experts who could tell the stories behind the treasures in the museums, as well as undertaking her own research — from decoding the stories and people behind etchings in a jail cell from the Waihī Miners' Strike in 1912 to setting off a huge disappearing gun.

She would also get amongst putting together the exhibitions by creating written content, and even painting the walls.
Justine is full of stories from the latest season.

"One of the most incredible discoveries we made in the research for the second series was a mysterious piece of parchment in the tiny Eketāhuna Museum. It was found behind the door of the museum in a supermarket bag, and was written in nearly illegible script."

"It turned out to be a deed of land transfer from 1620, meaning the document was kept for well over 200 years in the United Kingdom before being mysteriously brought to Aotearoa!"

"This was a remarkable discovery, as there are few objects of Pākehā history which date back even as early as the 1700s in Aotearoa."

The show has covered wooden panels carved by Japanese prisoners of war at a World War II camp in Featherston, thumbs of gold miners deliberately cut off by the miners themselves in the lead up to the 1912 miners' strike in Waihi, and a controversial carving and pieces of wood from shipwrecks in Dargaville.

Justine says that her biggest challenge this season was arranging the firing of the late-nineteenth-century disappearing gun on Maungauika/North Head in Devonport.

"This rare gun is one of the biggest in New Zealand and was brought in to defend Auckland against a feared Russian attack in the 1880s. Firing a safe but loud blank charge in the gun appealed immensely as a way to celebrate the museum reopening and engage people with an often forgotten local history."

"This turned out to be a mammoth task from getting permission to film to ascertaining the complex engineering of the gun's interior. This task had me grovelling around in mud under and inside the gun alongside our pyrotechnic expert."

"The passion and versatility that an Arts background gives you equips you for anything — even arranging the handling of 100kg breach blocks and black powder bombs, in order to bring history alive."

"And yes, the gun going off was the absolute highlight of my year."

Watch the new season of Heritage Rescue on Choice on demand