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Our stories will take you behind the scenes of technology and transport innovation from Aotearoa, New Zealand.
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Museums provide enriched education opportunities

On 18 May we celebrate International Museum Day 2024, with a focus on the role cultural institutions play in providing holistic educational experiences. MOTAT interacts with more than 30,000 children from early childhood to year 13. Head of Education Julie Baker shares her thoughts on this role and says her team sees evidence of the benefit of MOTAT’s education programming in the lightbulb moments they witness every day.
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Museums provide enriched education opportunities

On 18 May we celebrate International Museum Day 2024, with a focus on the role cultural institutions play in providing holistic educational experiences. MOTAT interacts with more than 30,000 children from early childhood to year 13. Head of Education Julie Baker shares her thoughts on this role and says her team sees evidence of the benefit of MOTAT’s education programming in the lightbulb moments they witness every day.

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In praise of Juliet our Sikorsky helicopter

One of MOTAT's newest Aviation Collection objects is not just fascinating from a technology aspect, the Sikorsky S76-A ZK-ISJ also worked a long life of service. Read on to learn about how "Juliet" became a beloved feature of Northland skies before its retirement in 2019. 

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1930s Kiwi steam invention made our butter better

Kiwi ingenuity was once again to the fore when the Vacreator was invented in Te Aroha to turn onion-weed tainted lower-grade cream into high-grade butter. Read on to learn about its designers and how this clever engineering technology, still used around the world, ended up in the MOTAT collection.

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Conserving Richard Pearse's Utility Plane

For 60 years MOTAT has been the guardian of the Richard Pearse convertiplane and soon it will go on display in our new Te Puāwananga Science and Technology Centre. Much work has gone on to get it ready to take pride of place – read on to learn about the recent conservation work and an earlier restoration project.

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Keith Park's Flying Coveralls

Since its inception, MOTAT has been proud to hold objects in its collection associated with New Zealand-born Air Commander and hero of the Battle of Britain, Sir Keith Park. Here we tell the story of a pair of flying coveralls that belonged to him and why they are significant.

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Miniature gramophone leads procession of portable players

A 100-year-old miniature gramophone from MOTAT’s collection has undergone conservation work and will sit alongside modern portable music players in a display that celebrates advances in audio technology over time in the new Te Puawānanga Science and Technology Centre. Learn all about the “Peter Pan” and how the tiny portable record player could still produce a powerful sound ...

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Recent acquisitions to MOTAT’s mobile phone collection

MOTAT's Telecommunications collection is a museum highlight and some recent acquisitions mean we can now tell the story of the rapid evolution of the mobile phone – a technology innovation that impacted the lives of almost everyone.

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MOTAT celebrates 150 years of fire-fighting in Auckland

MOTAT has an extensive collection of fire-fighting vehicles from across the decades. During the past few months we have pulled out all the stops to have 10 Auckland examples ready to put on display and support the Auckland Fire Brigade Museum and Historical Society's 150th Anniversary celebration.

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One of a Kind: MOTAT’s Mack Aerialscope

MOTAT's Mack Aerialscope fire helped save lives and property in Auckland for 31 years. It is also unique in the world – it's the only one of its kind to operate outside North America and to be manufactured as a right-hand drive vehicle. This Mack has left an indelible imprint on the city's fire fighting history.

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Restoring a Rare Vintage Ladies' Motorcycle

"I like the feeling of power, life, the mighty rushing wind beating on one’s cheeks with the roar of the passing breeze, and the beat of the exhaust deafening one’s ear. This is the power that drives, and here is the motorcycle’s charm."

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To the South Pole — On a Farm Tractor

How Sir Edmund Percival Hillary and three modified farm tractors triumphed to become the first overland expedition to reach the South Pole since 1912.

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Richard Pearse and his remarkable hybrid plane

Debate still rages in some circles as to whether Aotearoa New Zealand's pioneer aviator Richard Pearse beat the Wright brothers to be the first to fly. But whatever the truth of the matter, there is no denying the incredible ingenuity and foresight displayed in Pearse's inventions such as the Utility Plane in MOTAT's collection, soon to go on display.

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MOTAT’s Short Sunderland – a rare, reconnaissance flying boat

MOTAT's Short S.25 Sunderland NZ4115 is one of the rarest aircraft in our collection, and one of two flying boats on display in the Aviation Hall. This aircraft was used throughout the Pacific by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, assisting with maritime search and rescue missions.

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Plotting Aotearoa New Zealand - How We Made our Maps

Mapping a country does more than help drivers and hikers navigate their way from point A to point B. But how was our whenua mapped so we could easily guide ourselves around the country?

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An Aotearoa New Zealand contribution to assistive technology

Learn how a visit to a residential home for disabled youth led an Auckland electrician on a 20-year journey to develop an assistive technology device for people who cannot use a standard computer keyboard or mouse. Read on to discover the highs and lows of bringing the LOMAK (Light Operated Mouse and Keyboard) to market.

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No 4 Bus closes in on a century

MOTAT’s oldest passenger bus, No. 4 from the North Shore Transport Company, has nearly a century of operating history and has seen many changes in Auckland public transport in its time.

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Tram No. 248 a 1930s Auckland Streamliner

Tram 248 holds a special place in the history of MOTAT's Western Springs Tramway, representing the streamliner class from the days when trams ruled Auckland's public transport system. Learn more about its history and preservation story.

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MOTAT's Iconic Lancaster
MOTAT's iconic Lancaster

MOTAT's Avro Lancaster is one of the most popular aircraft in our collection and is the first one visitors see when arriving into the Aviation Hall. Take a deep dive into the history of this magnificent machine to learn why it is so significant to Aotearoa.

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Meet the Team

Tasked with creating the new science and technology centre, MOTAT has put together a group of experts with skills and knowledge that span science and technology, design, visitor experience, matauranga Māori, education and project management. So, let’s meet the team bringing the centre to life … 

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Museums are more than just visitor numbers, but how can we measure their impact?

In the week of International Museum Day 2023, Sabine Doolin, Visitor Research Advisor at MOTAT, takes a closer look at how museums contribute to this goal and how we can measure this as a value that museums provide to the community.

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The feats of Will Scotland and his Caudron biplane - Blue Bird

Nearly 100 years ago, Will Scotland was venturing into the skies over Aotearoa on his Caudron biplane, the Blue Bird. MOTAT is proud to have a collection of items that recollect these flying feats.

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MOTAT marks a 50-year milestone

This month we celebrate a half-century anniversary when years of planning came to fruition with the opening of the architecturally-designed MOTAT Transport Pavilion. The doors were opened on 31 March 1973, revealing rows of gleaming large-scale collection objects to delight visitors.

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Our historic Ford V8 fire truck will soon celebrate 50 years at MOTAT

With Live Day: Fire and Emergency occurring this month, we take a closer look at one of our significant firefighting Collection pieces.

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Five Must-play Women-made Games

Women are taking over the games industry! Learn about the five must-see women-made games, and get a chance to play them yourself.

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Celebrating Extraordinary New Zealand Women in Games

We all know the gaming scene in Aotearoa is growing at the speed of light, but do we know the people behind it?

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The Auster Aiglet - From Nelson to MOTAT

Only 70 Aiglets were built - but how did one end up in Nelson and then make its way to MOTAT?

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AI vs. Predators

Will High Tech Tools Lead to a Predator Free Aotearoa by 2050?

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Video: Farm Tech

Watch this video highlighting innovative farming technology from the past, captured by photojournalist and famed editor of the "New Zealand Farmer" Ron Vine.

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Signs of the Times: North Auckland Railway

Many of the original signs on the North Auckland Railway were unique - but how and why?

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The Story of our Short Solent ZK-AMO: Aranui

Aranui is the last Mark IV Solent in existence anywhere in the world. But where did Aranui come from?

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The Trekka: A Utility Vehicle for the New Zealand Market

Between 1966 and 1973, 2,500 Trekkas were built. What was the secret to its success?

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Our Origin Story: From The Old Time Transport Preservation League to MOTAT

Can you imagine Tāmaki Makaurau without the trams rumbling down the tracks of Western Springs Park? Learn how MOTAT began and its colourful history.

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MOTAT’s Well-Travelled Locomotive Oil Headlamp

In celebration of four years since being operational, let’s look at the oil headlamp fitted to our locomotive F180, also known as Meg Merrilies.

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G-AUNZ Aotearoa: The Remaining Pieces of an Aircraft

A single-engine Ryan monoplane registered G-AUNZ and named Aotearoa. What's left of it now?

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Matariki with Richie Mills

MOTAT is proud to be partnering with Richie Mills for Matariki Festival 2022. Read and get to know more about Richie and his mahi.

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The Gibbs Aquada: Kiwi Ingenuity Makes Waves Globally

Able to perform as a car and a boat - it’s an Amphibian! Learn about this significant object donated by Gibbs Amphibians to the MOTAT Collection in 2021.

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A Menu of Heroes

A treasured London dinner menu from 1943 commemorated the famed ‘Dam busters’ raid of WWII, signed by the mission survivors.

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Jean Batten’s Journey to Brazil

"How bitter-sweet it all was, I reflected — flying about the world, visiting these great cities, meeting many people, making many friends, then having to fly off again."

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Top Ten Transport Innovators in Aotearoa

Discover ten amazing (and often very fun) transport inventions and the dreamers who created them.

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Diving into Whale Tales Art with Amy van der Loo

The artist and the process behind Whale Tail No. 4 that sits on the doorstep of MOTAT 1.

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Colin Murdoch: Aotearoa's Quiet Genius

A life of exploring and innovating on a global scale for decades, while becoming one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most productive and decorated inventors.

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Celebrating Five Innovative Wāhine in Aotearoa STEAM

Learn about these epic wāhine making moves in the STEAM industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Auckland at the Movies: The Magic of Cinemas

Once, people would plan to go out to the cinema. They dressed up for it and looked forward to seeing the latest films projected onto big screens in opulent movie theatres seemingly built for royalty.

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Change, Change, Change: Love / Science Uniforms

The Social Fabric section of Love / Science's exhibition explores how uniforms help people feel they work and belong together. Plus, they're great to look at!

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Analogue vs Digital Two-Way Radios - What's The Difference?

We take a look at the difference between analogue and digital two-way radios ahead of our event LIVE Day: 100 Years Of Radio.

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Māori and Pasifika Superstars of STEAM

Celebrating some amazing Māori and Pasifika working in STEAM careers in Aotearoa, and some of the tupuna (ancestors) who paved the path forward.

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From Polio to Covid: The Tech That's Saving Lives

Aotearoa New Zealand has a long history of epidemics and pandemics — from the polio epidemic in the 1910s to today’s COVID-19 pandemic. History is repeating itself.

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Of Mice and Motherboards

MOTAT's deep collection of historical tech offers a fascinating look at computer history through actual objects that people used every day.

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All Aboard: Rail Hostesses of a Bygone Age

In the golden era of New Zealand Rail, hostesses worked long 12-hour shifts and were the human face of the railway.

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Richard Parry: The Artist Behind Tūhuratia Exploded

Born and raised in a world of electronics and gaming, Richard Parry has developed a unique art style that MOTAT is proud to present in our newest exhibition, Tūhuratia Exploded.

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Meet MOTAT's Mercury Arc Rectifier

A collection of electrical wires, glass bulbs, and giant glass balloons, glowing an intense blue-green colour, like straight out of a time travel movie. What was this thing??

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Love / Science Photog Blog Series

As part of our Love / Science exhibition, read about four very talented photographers who share MOTAT’s passion for new technology while still keeping old tech ticking.

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A Machine With Real Heart

In 1958, a brave little girl was "The first in New Zealand to have hole-in-the-heart surgery with the heart-lung machine - a great step forward for medical science.”

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SERIES: Parapara Ingenious

Stories of innovation in Aotearoa. Celebrating kiwi ingenuity and innovation, one object at a time.

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Smiles To Go For Sustainability

A Nelson dentist is doing good by setting standards for sustainable practices in her industry while improving kids' health.

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Silver Linings: Where Are They This Lockdown?

We chat Q+A style to Manaaki and Kami about what they are up to this lockdown. Get to know how an essential business operates during an Alert Level Four Lockdown.

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Conservation Technology in Aotearoa New Zealand

From forests replanted with drones, ocean fisheries monitored by satellites, to long-life predator control, New Zealanders are developing solutions to some of the world's most urgent conservation challenges.

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Contemporary Collecting: The Pear-1 Ventilator Prototype

Written by Nicola Jennings. The PEAR-1 ventilator prototype, is touchingly humble. Developed by seven Year 12 and 13 students from St John’s College, Hastings, it embodies the drive to help and the need to think innovatively.

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Sir Ernest Rutherford – The Father of Nuclear Physics

Written by Todd Dixon. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see a $100 note, you might recognise Sir Ernest Rutherford. This year, on August 30, it’s his 150th birthday. What better time to look at the achievements of the New Zealand-born father of Nuclear Physics. 

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The Process Behind the Jean Batten Portrait Conservation

Written by Kristie Short-Traxler. Read more about how our conservation team and contractors worked their magic on this Jean Batten Portrait.

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‘A Good Toy’: The Everson Gyrocopter

The gyrocopter built by Ron and Ernest Everson illustrates the ‘do it yourself’, or ‘number 8 wire’ ability that New Zealanders pride themselves on having.

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F. Maurice Clarke – New Zealand Commercial Aviation Pioneer

Written by Paul Tibbutt, Walsh Memorial Library Team member

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MOTAT Night Lights Q+A - Stargazing

The ‘Stargazing’ installation is the first collaboration between Plinth Floral design studio and Replum Visualisation studio. MOTAT chatted with the artists to learn what inspired their installation for Night Lights.

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A Prosperous Partnership To Promote Queenstown

Written by guest author Katherine Milburn, Liaison Librarian and Curator Ephemera Collection, Hocken Collections, University of Otago. The Publicity Branch of the Railways Department successfully promoted some of New Zealand’s major tourist destinations in the 1930s by working with local organisations to share campaign costs.

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First Among Equals: Stanley Davis (1892–1938)

Written by guest author Peter Alsop. Stanley Davis was a key figure in the early development and artistic direction of the Railways Department’s design studio, Railways Studios. His posters, billboards and magazine covers carved out a promising design career, cut short by his premature death.

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Space Technology Agreement Set to Advance Tertiary Education in Aotearoa

By Makayla Wallace-Tidd, Communications Coordinator, Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) and Maxar Technologies will assist in boosting innovation in Aotearoa.

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Documenting COVID-19: One Year On

By Abi Beatson - Abi is the COVID-19 Digital Archivist at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Aotearoa New Zealand’s heritage organisations are piecing together, item by item, story by story, our collective experiences of COVID-19 over the last year. We asked if they would share some of the items in their collections.

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Six Women in STEM to follow on TikTok

By Makayla Wallace-Tidd, Communications Coordinator, Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). With almost 1 billion views, #womeninSTEM in the place to be right now.

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Saintz Dance Academy: The Whānau That’s Inspiring the Next Generation of Dancers

By Makayla Wallace-Tidd, Communications Coordinator - Museum of Transport and Technology, (MOTAT). Saintz Dance Academy is a Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland based organisation that allows our younger community to explore dance and increase their confidence and happiness, all in one safe space.

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The Little Known Life of Frank Stewart

By Freya Elmer, Assistant Librarian — Pictorial, Walsh Memorial Library, Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

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The Art of Travel Posters

A constant flood of colour imagery on TV and computer screens, and in magazines, is now part of our daily lives and it is hard to imagine an age when most illustrations were in black and white. Posters have been around since Roman times, but it took two discoveries to make printing colour posters an economic proposition.

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Best Reached by Rail: Special Occasions

The 1920s and 1930s were a pivotal era in the democratisation of family holidaymaking in New Zealand. During these years the state-owned New Zealand Railways (NZR) ­– and its emerging publicity and advertising machine — helped to propel a boom in domestic tourism by using sophisticated, aspirational marketing to appeal to holiday consumers, especially families.

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A Better Future at the Push of a Button

Every day at MOTAT, we rely on our 150-person-strong team of volunteers who are essential cogs in the smooth running of the Museum. As well as assisting our MOTAT teams in various roles and departments, many of our wonderful volunteers are busy behind the scenes working on their own personal projects – like Michael Watling.

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Last of the Great Flying Boats: The Short Solent

The Solent flying boat enjoys a special place in New Zealand’s aviation history; and when it is only one of two left in the world it becomes unique . In fact, MOTAT’s ZK-AMO is the only Short Solent Mark IV variant left in existence. The Solent was operated by Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) at the beginning of international passenger air travel, and was the last large civilian passenger flying boat used on a regular service.

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New Zealand's Science Technology Future

As MOTAT hosts the Science Fiction Science Future exhibition, we look at local research groups and innovative companies who are inventing the future around us.

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Open Wide: A Short History of the Murder House in New Zealand

"The Murder House" is well known to generations of kiwi kids. Often a lone wooden building within the school grounds, filled with sharp metal objects, a strange medical smell, and a woman in a white uniform who could transform cotton swabs into bees; the school dental clinic or "Murder House" wove itself into the cultural fabric of New Zealand society.

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A Meccano computer: MOTAT’s differential analyser

A mechanical analogue computer built from Meccano in the 1930s to solve complicated differential equations? Yes, MOTAT has one of those.

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Taking the Waters: Strange Treatments at a Government-Run Spa

The incredible geological activity in and around Rotorua have made it a literal tourist hotspot. The Rotorua Baths was a famous government-run health resort in the early 20th century. Best Reached By Rail exhibition curator Todd Dixon explores cutting-edge treatments that were on offer such as high frequency valves and electric baths.

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A Polarising Sauce: The Essence of Anchovies

In 2017, MOTAT received the donation of an unopened bottle of sauce carrying the title “Essence of Anchovies”. At first it may seem an unusual object for a Museum of Transport and Technology to hold within their collection so let’s take a closer look at the unique history of this object. By Christen McAlpine.

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Preserving Time

During the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that re-emerged was the appreciation of a more slow-paced life...By Hayley McCormack.

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MOTAT’s Queen of the Rails

How one of Auckland’s Last Trams contributed to the development of the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). By James Duncan

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Redressing the Balance – A brief history of Letter Balances and the Penny Post

During my recent research of MOTAT’s Weights and Measures Collection, the letter balances, or postal scales, stood out – when did they first become popular and how are they relevant to New Zealand’s history? By Robyn Entwistle.

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Time Flies When Having Fun

During an exploration of timepieces within MOTAT’s Collection, we rediscovered several unique and kooky clocks. Here’s what we found…by Emily Hames.

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Christening the Collection

In 2020 MOTAT’s vast array of christening gowns were re-examined, hoping to shed some more light on the Collection. By Emily Hames.

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Some Assembly Required: A Brief History of Early Ford Assembly in New Zealand

In the 1930s, New Zealand had a thriving car assembly industry. In 1939, NZ was second only to the USA for car ownership and the Ford Motor Company's New Zealand assembly lines were running hot. By Robyn Entwistle.

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Oh Dam! Dam Technology in New Zealand: Part 1

Early dam building technology and innovation in New Zealand from forestry to water providers. By Freya Elmer.

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Time According to New Zealand

Highlights of some of the unique and interesting timepieces from New Zealand’s history that can be found within the MOTAT Collection.

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Going Viral: Polio and the Iron Lung

New Zealand has a long history of epidemics and pandemics — from the influenza epidemic reported by Māori in Foveaux Strait in 1817–20, to today’s COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Arrival of a MOTAT Icon

Many people are familiar with K 900 locomotive, which was on display at MOTAT’s Great North Road site for many years, but how many know the story of its journey to MOTAT?

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Christmas On Queen Street

Auckland's Queen Street has been the centre of the city's Christmas celebrations for decades. So, hop on a brightly decorated tram or trolley and join us on a ride down memory lane!

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MOTAT Night Lights Q+A - Universal Language

MOTAT chatted with the trio behind Night Lights installation, Universal Language, about all things art and creativity.

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Example of a letter addressed to Batten from Jamaica. [Series of philatelic material], 16/059/001. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).
Jean Batten's Stamp Collection

In 1990 the National Library of New Zealand’s Sub-Committee on strengthening Resources supported MOTAT’s Walsh Memorial Library in purchasing a lot of Jean Batten memorabilia from the Hendon Aircraft Sale at Sotheby’s. This included aero club badges, stamps, first day covers and other ephemera addressed to Batten.

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