Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa history curator Michael Fitzgerald discusses the importance of the skeleton of racehorse Phar Lap. Before loaning it to Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Te Papa prepared and conserved it with the assistance of Fitzgerald's research, which cast new light on the mystery of Phar Lap's sudden death.
Fitzgerald was one of the first professional history curators to be employed by a New Zealand museum. In 1971 he succeeded the first 'curator of colonial history' at the Dominion Museum, which subsequently became the National Museum and then Te Papa. His work involved providing authoritative advice to members of the public, government departments and researchers, and he also helped build and maintain the national collection of historical objects. This involved not just caring for items but researching and interpreting them to place them in historical context. In addition, along with other staff members, he helped develop exhibitions for Te Papa.
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