Our world in miniature at Pataka
The staff at Pataka know very little of J G Penman – not even his first name – but it’s keenly apparent he loved his toys.
‘‘I’ve been trying to do this for years – ever since I knew about the collection,’’ says Kylie Fyfe, curator of Iti Bity. The exhibition comprises 1011 metal and plastic miniatures, from toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians, to zoo animals, royalty and even politicians.
The figures belonged to J G Penman and were bequeathed to the museum by his wife Dinah in 1981. Iti Bity marks the first time it has been displayed en masse.
‘‘It’s fantastic to see them displayed. I don’t think anyone on staff has seen it all. This isn’t even the whole collection. I left out the vehicles,’’ says Ms Fyfe.
Timed for the Christmas season, she expects it to wow kids and collectors alike. The detail of the figures – most of which are in immaculate condition – is amazing, from the intricate armour of Samurai warriors to the kink in Sir Robert Muldoon’s generous cheek.
Ms Fyfe wasn’t sure if Penman had done the paint work of some miniatures himself, but they appear to have been amassed from a number of countries. Some were still in their original boxes while others have clearly been worn by little hands.
‘‘It’s nice to see some have been played with.’’
Though a lover of toys herself – ‘‘I never grew up’’ – Ms Fyfe says she is no expert when it comes to miniatures. She hopes collectors who visit the display will further the staff’s knowledge on the collection, in respect to the brands, their age and scarcity.
Most of the displays are at eye level for children and Ms Fyfe has devised some appropriate backdrops for several of the themed sets. Circus performers have been graced with a stage, while a royal assembly and cowboys and Indians are framed within old televisions.
Education officer Linda Fordyce says it is often forgotten that Pataka is a museum as well as a gallery, and they are criticised for not displaying enough of its collection.
‘‘Well, this is the biggest collection of miniatures in New Zealand.’’
There are also tables of toys which kids can play with, boardgames, and activities – such as locating specific figures among the thousand on display.
‘‘I’ve gone a bit nuts,’’ confesses Ms Fyfe. ‘‘I’d like to think [Mr Penman] would be really pleased.’’
Iti Bity - Toys from the Pataka Collection opened on Saturday and runs until February 12. Entry is free.
Channelling childhood: Iti Bity curator Kylie Fyfe puts the finishing touches on a skirmish between cowboys and Indians, displayed inside an old television set ‘‘since that’s how they were most familiar to us’’.