McGregor Museum: The Site

The McGregor Museum is housed in the Old Biology Building on the City Campus of the University of Auckland. This museum was named for Prof. W.R. McGregor, the Zoology professor who collected the bulk of the material for use in the teaching of biology and zoology classes at the university.

This web-site is forever growing as more of the collection becomes digitised. It has been prepared to share some of the resources that are available in the McGregor Museum with fellow staff at the University of Auckland and the wider educational community. We encourage the use of these images for educational use in both university and school settings, wherever in the world that you are. Museums need to be seen and appreciated and we feel a “living museum” needs to be widely used, which is made easier through sharing content via the internet.

Thanks to a University of Auckland Teaching Improvement Grant (to Amanda Harper, Brendon Dunphy, David Seldon and Mary Sewell) for the set-up and initial content of this web site. Web site design and construction is thanks to Simon Collings, Elliot Brown and Caroline Aspden (School of Biological Sciences, UoA). Colour photographs and movie clips of museum specimens are credited to Tim Page (Faculty of Arts, UoA), Black and white historic images are from Archives (School of Biological Sciences, UoA), audio commentary of museum specimens is by Joan Robb with help from Lindsay Baragwanath, Panoramas of the McGregor rooms are thanks to Brian Donovan (Centre for Academic Development, UoA), and all teaching charts were scanned by Igor Drecki (School of Environment, UoA).

Visits to the McGregor Museum can be arranged by appointment through the Curator, Dr. Mary A. Sewell (

The history of the McGregor museum

The first collections for the teaching of Biology at the University of Auckland were made by Prof. A.W.P. Thomas in 1884.  Stuffed bird specimens were also purchased from the Austrian collector Andreas Reisheck in 1889 at a cost of £35 and remain in the museum today.  Prof. McGregor joined the University staff in 1918 as a laboratory assistant, and is recorded as the “Curator in Zoology” from 1930.

Prof. McGregor’s aim was to build a world-class teaching museum, and the search for specimens to fill the museum was a focus of his time at the University of Auckland.  Several field trips were organized in the 1920s to the forests of New Guinea, where 28 porters helped carry the food, tanks and preservatives for his collections of birds and reptiles, including several birds of paradise.  He also obtained many specimens during the dismantling of exhibits at the Regent’s Park Zoo; these specimens, including an elephant skull, returned in crates to New Zealand.

Originally housed on the first floor of the Old Choral Hall, the museum was moved into purpose-built space in the Old Biology Building in 1939.  The museum was named “in honour of the work of Prof W.R. McGregor who during his time as Head of the Department of Zoology, designed the area, and collected and displayed many of the exhibits” on the 18th July 1975.

During renovations of the Old Biology Building in 1991 the original two-storied museum was converted into a lecture theatre and three seminar rooms, which house some of the original collections of New Zealand birds, Australian mammals, and a extensive primate collection.