Christchurch’s First Art Exhibition – 8th February 1870

In the early hours of 8 February 1870, the last preparations were still underway for the opening of Christchurch’s first art exhibition.

Set up in the brand new museum buildings, three to four hundred people gathered outside for the opening ceremony at 3pm. Amongst the notables attending were the Canterbury Superintendent William Rolleston, Christchurch Mayor Andrew Duncan and Sir Charles Christopher Bowen who spoke the following during his opening speech:

“The public has responded to the invitation to forward works of art and objects of archaeological and ethnological interest with an alacrity and public spirit which is most creditable”.

On display were a mixture of photos, etchings, chromo-lithographs, oil and water colour paintings, ivory carvings, china and embroidery. Some items were donated from members of the public, whereas other items were loaned from other provinces such as Otago, Nelson and Wellington. There were even displays of Indian and Polynesian art works.

Pictured here is Dr. A.C. Barker with one of his cameras in 1864. Upon his arrival in Canterbury in December 1850, he was one of Christchurch’s first doctors. Many early drawings of the region were drawn by Barker and when he began to dabble in photography, he captured Christchurch in its infancy. Many of our earliest images are thanks to him and his hobby.

Curious about Dr. A.C. Barker, please check out the attached link:

* Image courtesy of the Canterbury Museum –

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