The Story Behind an Albatross Foot Purse

Take an audio tour of this peculiar purse crafted from a foot of the world's largest seabird, the albatross

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Albatross Foot Purse. Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, M1742.

An Albatross Foot Purse

An albatross foot works surprisingly well, if a little gruesomely, as a purse. Historically, resourceful sailors crafted the feet into tobacco pouches by removing the bones and peeling apart the webbing.

Albatross Foot Purse detail #18Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

With its wrinkly skin and claws still visible, this particular pouch has been fashioned into a coin purse, evident by the floral filigree frame that clasps it shut. Join Grace Lai, Curator of Applied Arts & Design at Auckland Museum, for an audio tour of this intriguing object.

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Fashioned from a foot
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This purse is made from the foot of an albatross, the world’s largest seabird. ​

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A good luck charm
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Sailors have long considered the albatross to be a sign of good fortune at sea.​ 

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A natural pouch
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Once the bones are removed, the foot can be split in half to form a natural pouch.  

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Kissing locks
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The purse has a delicate metal frame, topped with ‘kissing locks’.​ 

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A careful repair
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A small rip has been carefully mended, a sign that this purse was well loved.​  

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A mysterious history
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Both macabre and beautiful, this purse is unique in Auckland Museum’s collection. 

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Discover more unique taonga (objects) cared for by Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Credits: Story

Text and audio written by Grace Lai, Kavi Chetty, Katie Skinner, and Rebecca Lal, and recorded by Grace Lai.

This purse was on display in Carried Away: Bags Unpacked, an exhibition at Auckland Museum in 2019.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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