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New Hocken exhibition recognises legacy of early Dunedin botanist

Blossom outside Clocktower

Wednesday 28 November 2012 11:43am

John-BuchananMorris Studio, Dunedin, Portrait of John Buchanan, c. 1890, photograph. Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin. S12-204.

An exhibition will be launched on Friday at the University of Otago's Hocken Library to mark the legacy to New Zealand of Scottish botanist and illustrator John Buchanan, who lived and worked during the formative years of Dunedin.

Art in the Service of Science: Dunedin's John Buchanan, curated by Linda Tyler from the Centre for Art Research at the University of Auckland, foregrounds the life and work of the Scottish botanist and draughtsman. The exhibition features watercolours and drawings of New Zealand landscapes, birds, fossils and botanical specimens created by Buchanan during his scientific endeavors.

It has been mounted by the Hocken to coincide with the John Buchanan Symposium, in Dunedin tomorrow and Friday. The symposium has been organised by the Friends of the Knox College Library.

Curator of pictorial collections at the Hocken, Natalie Poland, says John Buchanan, who arrived in Dunedin in 1852, could be described as the colonial Victorian version of the Renaissance man.

He was involved in some of the Government's first forays into science: the Reconnaissance and triangulation Surveys of Otago, the Otago Provincial Geological Survey, the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey of New Zealand, the Colonial Botanic Garden, and, the New Zealand Institute (later known as the Royal Society of New Zealand).

The material on display has been sourced primarily from the collections of the Hocken and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. The most well-known of Buchanan's watercolours, Milford Sound from Freshwater Basin, which was first shown in the 'Specimens and Illustrations of Natural History and Physical Science' section of the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition, and now in the Hocken, is one of the exhibition's highlights.

Buchanan's legacy lives on in the exhibition through a collection of books from his personal library, a portion of which is now held by the University of Otago Library's Special Collections; an album containing Buchanan's botanical sketches from the Auckland War Memorial Museum and three of his personal scrapbooks on loan for this exhibition from Toitu: Otago Settlers Museum. The exhibition will run until 9 February 2013.

Auckland University curator Linda Tyler will give an exhibition floor talk at the Hocken on Sat 1 December at 10am.

In addition to the Hocken showing of this exhibition Art in the Service of Science: John Buchanan's Dunedin will tour to Auckland's Gus Fisher Gallery.

Auckland dates: 1 March – 22 April 2013.


Linda Tyler
Mob: 021 912 119

Natalie Poland
Curator of Pictorial Collection,
Hocken Collections,
University of Otago
Tel: 479 5600