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Te Kiwi Māia T-shirt and Contemporary Collecting

Contemporary collecting in museums is a relatively new approach to obtaining objects for a collection. Traditionally museums collect objects of the past and usually rely on donations. However, in order to future-proof our collections and to ensure they remain relevant and inclusive, contemporary collecting has emerged as a more active form of collecting that aims to preserve items from the recent past. It aims to seek out objects to ensure they are not lost to history and to preserve objects we believe will fill the future gaps in our collections.

A recent example of our contemporary collecting is the Te Kiwi Māia T-shirt. It was purchased for the collection in August of 2020 after our registrar spotted an advertisement for the charity in the HMNZS Philomel weekly bulletin.

Te Kiwi Māia is a newly established charity that aims to provide rehabilitation, recovery and respite to all first responders who as a result of their work have sustained physical or psychological injuries. It translates as The Courageous Kiwi. The charity was created by Rebecca Nelson, a reservist in the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and the official singer of the RNZN. Nelson had visited Tedworth House in Wiltshire, United Kingdom, a recovery facility for military personnel run by the charity Help for Heroes. From her visit she was inspired to create Te Kiwi Māia which hopes to eventually have its own homestead and working farm as a place to run their own recovery and support initiatives. With the help of several other members of the RNZN, the charity was officially established in 2019. Although established by RNZN personnel, the focus of the charity extends well beyond the NZDF.

In 2020, to help fundraise for their cause, Te Kiwi Māia released T-shirts available for purchase. The T-shirt was designed by Corporal Renee Thyne RNZAF and features a heart with the different helmets of first responders. According to Thyne, ‘My idea for the design was to promote mental wellness. The helmets represent the heads of our responders and the heart not only represents the health of those personnel but the support of the person wearing the shirt.’[1] It features the helmets of the three branches of the NZDF, the NZ Police, Surf Lifesaving NZ, Fire and Emergency NZ, St John’s Ambulance, NZ Coast Guard, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and Wellington Free Ambulance Service.

The T-shirt was collected by our team to not only remember the achievement of those individual RNZN personnel in setting up the charity but it also serves as an important representation of the Navy’s social history and wider cultural trends. It helps reflect the experiences of our current serving personnel as society moves towards a deeper understanding of the importance of mental wellness, and how that support is being implemented in modern navy life.

– by Hannah Pym, Collections Assistant 

[1] Pandy Fruean, Te Kiwi Māia (The Courageous Kiwi) , The Navy Club, 02/08/2020,

Te Kiwi Māia T-shirt
Te Kiwi Māia T-shirt 2020.45.1

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