Visiting family treasures

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Most visitors to the Museum see only a fraction of our collection. We care for more than 2.3 million objects, and there just isn't enough space to display them all. At any time, less than 1% of the collection is on display.

Curator Lisa McDonald shows Phillida Watherston an image of her ancestor

Lisa McDonald, Associate Curator Human History, shows Phillida Watherston a photo of her ancestor Bishop Churchill Julius.

Sometimes visitors want to see or spend time with objects that have special meaning for their family, but aren't exhibited.

Recently Phillida Watherston came in to see some photographs and items of clothing connected to her great-grandfather, Bishop Churchill Julius.

Bishop Julius was consecrated Anglican bishop of Christchurch in 1890 and held the position until his retirement in 1925. 

His career is most notable for his contributions to education, but he also oversaw the completion and consecration of ChristChurch Cathedral.

Phillida Watherston

Phillida Watherston is the great-grandaughter of Bishop Churchill Julius.

Phillida asked if we had any items relating to Julius after she spotted a photograph of him in our Christchurch Street exhibition. In the photo, the Bishop is being hoisted up by a crane to bless the newly built cathedral spire.

We had lots of other photos from the collection to show Phillida when she came in, as well as some of Bishop Julius' clerical vestments.

The previous week we were visited by Christchurch resident Maxwell Forbes, the great-grandson of Antarctic explorer Hartley Travers Ferrar. Ferrar was the geologist on the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901 - 1904), led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Ferrar was born in Ireland and educated in South Africa and England. After the expedition he married New Zealand woman Gladys Anderson and settled here. Ferrar served with the 1st Canterbury Regiment during World War One and worked for the New Zealand Geological Survey afterwards.

Max Forbes and director Anthony Wright

Max Forbes visited to see a sledging pennant used by his great-grandfather Hartley Ferrar, geologist on Scott's Discovery expedition. He is pictured here with Museum Director Anthony Wright.

Max came in to view a pennant that flew from Ferrar's sledge during the expedition. He remembered the pennant hanging on the wall of the family home in Cambridge, England, when he was a child.

Max didn't realise we also had his great-grandfather's Polar Medal in our collection, and he was very pleased to be able to see it.

As Canterbury Museum has such a large number of items held in multiple collection stores, people interested in viewing objects need to make an appointment at least one month in advance. Phone 03 366 5000 or email

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