Canterbury Museum adds kit bag from Hillary’s Everest conquest to collection

Tuesday 04 December 2018

Canterbury Museum has acquired a canvas kit bag used by Sir Edmund Hillary when he and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to summit Mt Everest.

Curator Human History Corban Te Aika with the kit bag

Curator Human History Corban Te Aika with the kit bag.

The large duffel-style bag, which is 65 cm wide and 95 cm long when flat, carried equipment Hillary used on the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition.

Hillary wrote a list of gear on the outside of the bag which reads:

"Assault March, Not to be issued personally, 10 air mattresses, 4 sleeping bags 20 below, 1 sleeping bag Mummy, 2 pairs down gloves, 6 pairs leather fingered gloves, 6 pairs silk gloves, Hillary, Auckland New Zealand, clothing, Air Mail".

The bag was found in a caravan once owned by Hillary, and was then sold to the vendor who put it up for auction in July this year. In 2003, Hillary verified that he had used the bag on the 1953 expedition.

The bag is one of a number of objects in the Museum’s collection connected to Hillary’s historic Everest ascent.

These include a Fairydown Twenty Below sleeping bag and a pair of silk gloves Hillary used on the expedition, which are possibly some of the items listed on the outside of the bag.

The Museum also cares for Hillary’s famous striped sunhat as well as a pair of crampons, a green jacket and an inflatable mattress, all from the 1953 Everest expedition.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary. Canterbury Museum 2015.113.1198

Canterbury Museum Director Anthony Wright says he was thrilled when he learned the Museum’s bid for the kit bag had been successful.

“I’m very grateful to those who have given the Museum funds so we can acquire important objects like this when they come up for sale,” he says.

“I don’t think any New Zealander needs to be told that Sir Ed’s conquest of Everest was really significant for our country. It’s an important story and this kit bag will help us tell it.

“I particularly like that the bag has Hillary’s handwriting on it as it creates a very personal connection to the events of the 1953 expedition.”

The Museum paid $16,000 for the bag at Dunbar Sloane’s Antique and Decorative Arts Auction in July.

The kit bag is not currently on display at Canterbury Museum.

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