When Death Jumped Ship

Lyttelton Museum, working with Lyttelton Library, created the exhibition When Death Jumped Ship to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 world-wide influenza pandemic.

Beca Heritage Week 12 -27 October 2018 at Lyttelton Library

Travelling exhibition dates and Library locations:

Papanui: Tuesday 30 October – Thursday 15 November

Te Hāpua: Monday 19 November – Friday 7 December

South: Monday 10 December – Friday 28 December


The exhibition told the story of how Lyttelton/Christchurch coped with the 1918 influenza emergency – how the local authorities and communities tried to stop the spread of the disease – while also giving an international and national context.  During Heritage Week we had two guest speakers. Professor Geoffrey Rice provided a contemporary take on the subject, posing the question whether the pandemic could happen today.  The second guest speaker was author Anna Rogers who wrote about WWI nursing.

The exhibition included historical information and photographs, a video with a recording of a children’s flu song, and numerous objects. While the exhibition travelled, the objects and video were not included.

While the exhibition was on display in the Lyttelton Library it proved popular and visitors took time to write their flu memories down on a pad resembling a prescription for medicine outside of the exhibition in a staged doctor’s waiting room.  Some memories jotted down on the Prescription for Memories pads:

Oral histories of Lyttleton 2004-2005 people remembered Dr. Upham and his dedication nto his own patients meant he didn’t lose a single patient and didn’t charge families who couldn’t afford his fees.

An elderly friend, Peg Byers, lived in Christchurch and parents died in the pandemic. She told me a lot about this.  She was sent to Ngāti Moti to live with her grandmother.