On the Sheep's Back 

Exhibition now closed 14 Feb 1998 – 23 Apr 2007
Free entry
Family; People and history 


The thing that made some of us rich and most of us jerseys – wool! A loving and hugely entertaining homage to the stuff. From the richly experienced voices of jingling johnnies and sweaty rousies to the impressive comforts of the wool barons, follow the whole woolly story.

From the arrival of the first sheep to the 50 million-strong flock today, wool has been a constant part of the country’s economy. On the Sheep's Back celebrates the familiar by cleverly weaving and connecting the lives of New Zealanders to the woollen industry, in an often witty and surprising manner.

The exhibition tells the story of wool from grass to finished product. The woolshed is the setting for the shearing story –  the gangs, the gear, the hard slog, the champion shearers. The magnificent English and French antique furniture collection, known as the Elgar Collection, gives evidence of the wealth of some of the woolgrowers.

New Zealanders’ creativity with wool is celebrated with an intriguing range of items – from socks for the Great National Sock Appeal during World War I, to woollen flowers made by a fifteen-year-old school girl, Māori cloaks, and teacosies. The versatile range of manufactured woollen garments connect groups as diverse as Kiwi farmers, fashion models, and castaways. Factory images, processes, and memories of workers show how garments were made.

From farm to fashion, New Zealanders have been growing, shearing, manufacturing, exporting, crafting, and wearing wool for 150 years. On the Sheep's Back is a warm reminder of the impact the woollen industry has had on our lives.