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From pockets to the Pitcairns, a research topic for everyone!

Presently, Otago Museum is lucky enough to have two international researchers within their walls: Ariane Fennetaux, an Associate Professor from Université de Paris and Jonathon Paige, a PhD student from Arizona State University, are here studying the collection, and sharing their knowledge.

Dr Fennetaux specialises in material culture, textile and dress in the long 18th century. She has recently co-published a book, Pockets of History - Women's Tie-on Pockets in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“The nursery rhyme ‘Lucy Locket lost her pocket’ is probably the only shared memory left of the tie-on pocket today”, said Dr Fennetaux. “Yet every day between the late seventeenth and the late nineteenth centuries, British women and girls of all social classes – from duchesses and country gentry to prostitutes and washerwomen – wore detachable pockets like Lucy Locket’s.”

Eighteenth century pockets were tied around waists independently of women’s clothing, reached through openings in their petticoats and dresses, and put on and off at will. This may explain the much-lamented lack of pockets in womens clothing today!

Dr Fennetaux will be giving a free public talk on this fascinating subject on Tuesday 3 December at 5.30pm in Otago Museum’s Barclay Theatre.

Detachable pockets may seem obscure now, but they open up a nexus of historical questions ranging from women’s domesticity and work to agency, from possession to financial independence and from consumer practices to privacy. Dr Fennetaux will discuss this, and show how pockets provide a lens to view women’s lives in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For more information about the talk, visit

Dr Fennetaux’s current research focuses on the use of animal products in European dress and fashion – and more particularly baleen, furs, and feathers and how the rise of the British Empire led to the extension of the ‘hunting grounds’ for these products. During Dr Fennetaux’s visit, she will be reviewing items from the Museum’s extensive dress collection in relation to her current research project and sharing her knowledge with the Humanities staff.

Also visiting is Jonathon Paige. Mr Paige specialises in the evolution of stone tool technologies. The focus for his dissertation, funded by the Leakey Foundation, is measuring how rapidly people changed their tools as they move into new environments where new kinds of challenges were presented.

“This is why stone tool technologies in Oceania are so interesting to me”, said Mr Paige. “As people expanded into the diverse environments of Polynesia, people had to adapt in many ways, including what kinds of tools they made, and how they made them. The archaeological record of Oceania is one useful way to explore how rapidly people change their technologies.”

Mr Paige is at the Museum until Saturday 30 November, analysing material from Pitcairn Island, collected from digs in 1964 and 1965. Peter Gathercole, who worked at Otago Museum in the past, led these excavations and the Museum holds a lot of this material.

Pitcairn Island produced many stone adzes, but these are not as well studied as those from other countries in the South Pacific, so Mr Paige’s research is of much interest to anthropologists.

Otago Museum hosts many visiting researchers each year, from universities and institutions around the world. The diversity and depth of the Museum’s collections and their increasing discoverability through digitisation and online access will likely result in even more visiting researchers in the future.

“International researchers bring much to the Museum, offering specialised knowledge and bringing a new understanding of different aspects of our wonderful collection”, said Otago Museum’s Curator, Humanities, Moira White, “We are excited to have Ariane and Jonathon here at the moment.”