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Digging up the past . . . North Otago Museum curator Chloe Searle shows off bones from a kiwi that is believed to have lived thousands of years ago in North Otago. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

It has been an exciting time for North Otago Museum curator Chloe Searle, who has been hard at work studying and identifying relics from North Otago’s past.

Recently, she conducted a review of old bird bones with Dr Paul Scofield, from the Canterbury Museum.

The bones in the collection were from birds that lived in North Otago thousands of years ago.

“Most of these are animals that probably died in swamps, or died and their bones washed into swamps and were preserved,” Ms Searle said.

The study came to fruition after the museum partnered with Te Papa’s Expert Knowledge Exchange programme.

The programme hires experts to help smaller museums in New Zealand.

“We applied to have Paul come here and really share his expertise with us, looking at this bird bone collection, because it’s something that none of our staff have enough knowledge to do.”

Most the bones in the collection came into the museum in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

“They were just on the backlogs that were identified and hadn’t had that much attention because it’s a specialist topic, so we were really keen to get that sorted.

“We’re really lucky to have someone of Paul’s level of knowledge doing something like that.”

Although the majority of the bones came from moa, there were other bones within the collection that belonged to other species of birds from the region.

Dr Scofield’s review of the bones lasted three days.

“It was a short time but he got through a lot,” Ms Searle said.

“He probably got through about half of the bird bone collection, so we’re hoping to get him back.

“We’re thankful to people over the years who have given us bones. It’s a really useful record to have, especially with the DNA research that can be done.”