Get it on: Condoms

Today, no form of birth control is as widespread as the condom – or as essential for sexual health. But it wasn’t always so.

Condoms were often associated with promiscuity and venereal disease, and were sold discreetly, in plain packaging. They were also notoriously unreliable.

The quality improved in the 1970s, when international standards were enforced. Then New Zealanders began to trust condoms more. By the late 1980s, they were too frightened not to – HIV/Aids had arrived. Clever, colourful packaging helped spread the message of protection.

Dame Margaret Sparrow, one of New Zealand’s leading sexual-health doctors and birth-control advocates, has gifted nearly 800 contraceptive devices to Te Papa. They form an amazing record of technological and social change.

Learn more about 100 years of birth control in New Zealand, including trailblazing feminists and Dame Margaret Sparrow’s own experiences:

Find out how Dame Margaret’s contraceptive collection began, and how attitudes to safe sex changed in 1980s New Zealand:

Both videos were filmed in 2015 for the exhibition Contraception: Uncovering the collection of Dame Margaret Sparrow.