The Museum holds a very diverse and fascinating range of natural and social history items in the General Collection. Areas of particular strength are Maori taonga and artefacts, domestic items including costumes, toys, china, furniture, glass and silver, paintings, ceramics, medals, coins, textiles from the colonial period through to contemporary items. Most items have links with the past of the Nelson / Tasman Region and reflect aspects of its history, or have been donated by residents of the region. Our collection policy is to focus on items that have a strong connection to the region or reflect aspects of its natural history or social life.
This historic family silver collection dates from 1594 -1800 and consists of over 140 pieces. It was gifted by Deed of Trust to the people of Nelson and the surrounding region by Julie Annie Tomlinson in 1959, as an acknowledgement of the commitment that her family had made to Nelson when they settled in this region in 1850.
The Bett Collection forms the nucleus of our extensive and growing historical library and archives. Dr Francis Arnot Blackader Bett (1873-1957) was a passionate collector. Aside from running a busy medical practice, he devoted a lifetime to collecting books, photographs, maps, documents, sketches and paintings relating to the Nelson province. Dr Bett was nationally recognised as an important authority on our region. Under the terms of his Trust, Dr Bett also provided a fund, administered by the Bett Trustees, to provide for the long-term care of the collection.
The Marsden Collection is a rare and beautiful collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century antique furniture, plate and glassware - including Sevres, Dresden and Worcester. The collection was inherited by James and Frances Marsden in 1904. The Marsdens ran a large farm in Stoke, Nelson. Their homestead was Isel Cottage, now known as Isel House, and Isel Park is the remnant of their property.
In 2001 the Cawthron Institute donated their part of the Marsden Collection to the Museum, and the Anglican Diocese of Nelson agreed to the acquisition of their part of the Marsden Collection by the Museum. The Marsden Paintings and Book Collection is also held at the Museum. The unique Book Collection dates from 1773 to the early 1920s and relates to natural history, discovery and exploration of the Pacific and provides the nucleus of the research library collection. A full listing can be obtained from the Museum Library and Archives.