Readers' help solves half of mystery

By Hamish MacLean

It is one mystery item down and one to go at the North Otago Museum, in Oamaru.

Last week, museum curator Chloe Searle asked readers of the Otago Daily Times for help in identifying two tools from the museum's agricultural collection, after a collections review turned up the tools, which staff could not identify.

But the smaller of the two, a hand-held device taken into the collection in the 1980s, had now been positively identified, she said yesterday.

Patented in 1884 by an Oamaru man, and made in Oamaru ''for a short time as well'', a barbing tool made by William Woodcock and Edward West, of Woodcock and West, was identified after she was tipped off via an email on Friday night from someone who had found an old newspaper article online. Once she had that ''it gave me the right words to find a whole lot more''.

''If you'd fenced your fence with standard fencing in the 1880s and you wanted to convert it to barbed wire, instead of replacing it you could take that little tool and put barbs on your fence.''

The second tool, received by the museum in the 1960s, was believed to be used for edging lawns or possibly sowing seeds but she had yet to find anything that ''absolutely confirms'' its use, or origin.

This barbing tool was manufactured by William Woodcock and Edward West, of Oamaru. Photo / Shannon Gillies
This barbing tool was manufactured by William Woodcock and Edward West, of Oamaru. Photo / Shannon Gillies

Nevertheless, she was ''blown away'' by the response from people interested in the museum's mystery items.

''It's been fantastic,'' Ms Searle said.

Anyone who can help should contact the museum or email museum@waitaki.govt.nz

- Otago Daily Times

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