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Murchison Earthquake remembered through online exhibition

The 91st anniversary of Murchison’s tragic 1929 Earthquake, which saw the loss of 17 lives and significant damage across the region, is being remembered through an online exhibition presented by the Nelson Provincial Museum in collaboration with Tasman’s Murchison Museum.

Originally created as a physical exhibition and opened for permanent display at the Murchison Museum this time last year, the exhibition has been transformed into an online format as part of a drive by the Nelson Provincial Museum to broaden access to the region’s historical collection. It follows the launch of the Museum’s first online exhibition – Rugby: 150 Years On – last month.

The exhibition, titled Everything Was Noise And Movement, opens with the words of local witness Barbara Oxnam who recalls the start of an ordinary day: “Monday, June 17th 1929, began as a typical Murchison winter’s morning, very still and calm, cold and foggy.” However, at 10.17am everything changed. The 7.3 magnitude earthquake ripped through the region, causing multiple fatalities, unimaginable damage to property and more than 10,000 landslides. The shock was felt as far afield as Greymouth, Cape Farewell and Nelson, and the noise was heard in New Plymouth, 250km away. Great cracks appeared in the landscape and water spouts came out of them as if from nowhere. Communication and power was cut off. Two local men set out to walk the 47 kilometre journey north to Glenhope to get word out.

“The strength of a close-knit community in facing such a devastating event is clearly evident throughout this exhibition” says Nelson Provincial Museum CEO Lucinda Blackley-Jimson.

“After working on the physical exhibition last year, we are proud to be able to share these amazing stories of small-town heroism more widely online.”

In spite of risks posed by constant aftershocks, search parties went out to bring families in from neighbouring valleys. A train was scheduled to leave Kohatu at 3pm every day to evacuate people to Nelson. The people of Nelson opened their doors to refugees, and a special relief fund was set up. This tragic event could have broken Murchison, but the community faced the challenge with a resilience which only made it stronger. As local witness Mavis Bartlett remarks: “Murchison was not the same afterwards – it was better.”

You can find Everything Was Noise And Movement online at


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