Blanche Halcombe has always been portrayed as a somewhat tragic figure - a recluse who lost her love to the war just days after their wedding and then her treasured possessions to a house fire which also took her life.

But her story is not of an unfortunate woman, but of a feisty and independent traveller and her life on the wing

This exhibition was inspired by the rediscovery of a wooden box filled with native birds in the museum storeroom. Uncatalogued and unsorted, these birds had been rescued from the 1961 fire at Blanche’s home in New Plymouth.

The subsequent detective work to find out where they had come from revealed the story of a woman with a passion for natural history and a desire for adventure.

As a young woman, Blanche Halcombe lived life to the full, travelled across Europe regardless of World War One, collecting as she went. Although natural history was in its heyday at the time, women scientists were still a rarity. This never stopped Blanche though, she was always looking for the next treasure to add to her collection. 

Those specimens are now on show for the first time, along with a rare moa egg which was once part of her collection.

Blanche Halcome: A Life on the Wing tells of a life filled with flight and adventure until age and circumstance grounded her and clipped her wings.

Lane Gallery, Level 2, Puke Ariki Library
Free entry
Suitable for all ages

Opening hours


9AM – 6PM


9AM – 6PM


9AM – 6PM


9AM – 6PM


9AM – 6PM


9AM – 5PM


9AM – 5PM