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Museums collaborate with Camellia umbrellas for Suffrage 125

Kate Sheppard’s silhouette already appears on pedestrian “cross now” signs at eight Wellington intersections. Now the leading light of the women’s suffrage movement in the 1890s has inspired a range of bespoke products developed by Wellington and Auckland museums.

Wellington Museum and Auckland Museum have collaborated with top NZ umbrella company Blunt to produce 1000 special Kate Sheppard signature umbrellas, alongside 125 limited edition silk scarves, lens cloths and tote bags.

The products using Kate Sheppards’s signature and a distinctive camellia design, celebrate 125 years of the Suffrage Movement in New Zealand.

Karryn Baudet, Head of Commercial and Visitor Services at Museums Wellington has collaborated with her Auckland Museum counterpart Lisa Varga in the past.

Their plan to create a range of bespoke products to celebrate Suffrage 125 led to them approaching local company Blunt Umbrellas last June with their idea.

“Both of our museums already stocked Blunt umbrellas,” said Baudet, “as we want to be able to provide tourists with an umbrella that can cope with local weather conditions.”

Blunt umbrellas come with a five-year warranty and are made to withstand winds of 117km/h.

Research done by Baudet’s colleague Bridget Swift led to the choice of the white camellia as the unifying image for the range.

In 1893, suffragists presented a white camellia flower to members of the House of Representatives who had voted in favour of women gaining the vote. Those who voted against were given a red camellia.

Graphic designer for Museums Wellington, Sarah Maxey, was tasked with developing the concept into a final design, and making it work within the particular constraints of the closed and open umbrella. The result features Kate Sheppard’s signature from the successful 1893 petition presented to Parliament and a special breed of white camellia flower that carries her name.

Having created bespoke design umbrellas for the likes of Karen Walker and Oxfam in the past Blunt were able “to do us a favour on a 1000 product run,” said Baudet, and were supportive during the design process.

The 1000 umbrellas, available in the compact and collapsible Metro style, will be equally divided between the Wellington and Auckland museums.

Limited edition silk scarves also utilise the design, as do the affordable lens cloths and tote bags, items that are both very popular with tourists.

The Kate Sheppard Camellia range and accompanying Suffrage 125 Broadsheet range are now on sale at the gift shops at Wellington Museum and Auckland Museum, and at their online stores. A portion of the sales of the range will go to the National Council of Women New Zealand to help continue champion gender equality into the future.