Moai Culture Captain Cook Museum

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Exhibition opening and book launch

On 5 March 2011 the new exhibition Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture opened at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton, Middlesbrough. On display there until 4 September 2011, it is being accompanied by a series of talks and family events related to the topic of Easter Island and popular culture. The Museum, which marks Cook's birth in Marton in 1728, is a superb venue for this exhibition, which engages with Cook's visit to Easter Island in 1774. In front of the Museum visitors are greeted by a large stone statue, carved by contemporary Maori artist George Nuku, of moai Tutira – a symbol of Cook’s connections with the places he visited.

The exhibition consists of thirty-one information panels organised into six themes, which explore a wide range of global issues regarding Easter Island and its representation in popular culture. The themes are extended into display cabinets of material and visual culture that includes board games, kitchenware, vinyl records, and comic books. Surrounding the displays are eight large moai sculptures made by Cheeky Tiki. These impressive figures are the focus of the Moai on the Move project.

Supported by the Chilean Embassy and Middlesbrough Borough Council, the exhibition was opened by Phil Philo, with Dr Ian Conrich also announcing the launch of the book Easter Island, Myths and Popular Culture, which accompanies the exhibitions. The book, which gathers together material from the exhibition panels, is a well-illustrated publication designed to provide an introduction to Easter Island, that is accessible for both adults and children. This special publication can be purchased at

The large crowd that attended the reception enjoyed the Chilean wine and had the opportunity to chat with the curator Dr Ian Conrich and the assistant curators Dr Roy Smith, Martyn Harris, and Teresa Jambur.

Teresa Jambur

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Image captions

[2] The stone moai carving, Tutira, by Maori artist George Nuku, which sits proudly and permanently outside the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. [4] One of the 8 moai carvings by Cheeky Tiki, which greets visitors to the exhibition. [6] Visitors to the exhibition on the first day. [10] A few of the nearly 40 panels on display. [14] One of the display cabinets foregrounds comic books from countries around the world. [15] A cabinet displaying popular moai items related to food and drink. [16] Liquor bottles in the shape of moai. [17] Ceramic moai mugs and bowls. [18] Moai candles, lights and partyware. [19] One section of the museum is devoted to the moai in fashion, with a display of Hawai'ian shirts and a pair of Italian swimming trunks. [20] Above the doors is a perspex promo sign from Las Vegas for the slot machine 'Easter island', The 2 perspex signs to the right are the front panels from the slot machine, and to the left, within a frame, are the 4 strips that would have been mounted on the spinning drums. [21] A selection of original vinyl album covers, depicting the moai. The 3 albums on the middle horizontal row are from the 1960s and are early records of music by the Easter Islanders. [22] A cabinet partly devoted to gaming, which features a chess set with moai pieces, and a game called 'Rapa Nui', with the shape of its board inspired by the outline of the island. [23] Extracts depicting the moai from television, computer games, and film fiction played on a museum monitor. [24] Curator Dr Ian Conrich (left) presenting special ties featuring the moai or the rongorongo glyphs to Dr Roy Smith (2nd left), Phil Philo ((2nd right) and Martyn Harris (right). The ties were presented at the opening of the exhibition and were given in recognition of each person's work and support. [26] At the exhibition's opening. Curator Dr Ian Conrich (2nd left), with Assistant Curators Dr Roy Smith and Martyn Harris (2nd right and right), and Associate Curator Teresa Jambur (left).