Nelsonians and visiting Dutch dignitaries got a taste of forensic history with the opening of a new exhibition about Abel Tasman's fateful voyage to New Zealand 370 years ago.
Netherlands ambassador Arie van der Wiel opened the Abel Tasman display at the Nelson Provincial Museum during a private function yesterday.
The exhibition focuses on how the further we go back in history, the greater the opportunities there are for interpretation or misinterpretation.
The centrepiece is a recently donated 1726 Frederik Ottens engraving that depicts aspects of the first recorded meeting between European voyagers and the tangata whenua of Te Tau Ihu.
Records of the events of December 1642 come from translations of Tasman's journals kept during the voyage and from a variety of images created by Isaac Gilsemans.
Gilsemans was a merchant who travelled with Tasman on the voyages funded by the Dutch East India Company.
The display also includes a modern chart plotted by Graham Anderson that traces Tasman's voyage along New Zealand's western coastline from close to present-day Greymouth northwards to Three Kings Islands.
Nelson Provincial Museum chief executive Peter Millward said there were various accounts of what happened when Tasman arrived in Golden Bay, describing the process of linking different historical facts together, such as journal translations and reproduced images, as forensic history.
Mr van der Wiel is hosting a seminar for invited scholars in Nelson today, to discuss unanswered questions about exactly what happened when Tasman's voyage reached New Zealand waters in 1642.
"Was it just a cultural misunderstanding that Tasman was received so violently or were the Maori anxious to protect their kumara harvest? Was the first European import to New Zealand a dead Dutchman?
"Through a bit of imagination, we may be able to reconstruct that encounter. It is my sincere hope that this will mark the beginning for further research of our joint history," he said.
Golden Bay heritage campaigner Penny Griffith said the events surrounding Tasman's 1642 visit to Golden Bay were of regional, national and international interest.
The 370th commemoration will be capped off with a concert at the Nelson School of Music at 2pm this Sunday, where performers will present a Douglas Lilburn piano sonata and a well-known collaboration between Lilburn and poet Allen Curnow.
Landfall in Unknown Seas was written for a string orchestra and will be narrated by Doug Brooks. Also on the programme is kapa haka and a performance by the Koata whanau.
- The Nelson Mail
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