Museum of Archaeology Ōtautahi reveals Christchurch's long-lost hidden artefacts in new digital collection

A slice of Christchurch history has been preserved with the country's first online archeological museum. 

Buried beneath the garden city for more than a century, thousands of artefacts have been unearthed, researched and made accessible to all.  

They're rusted, cracked and now curated - objects opening a window into 19th century Christchurch.

Nearly 1 million artefacts were discovered in a "big dig" after the Christchurch earthquakes, each of them catalogued and preserved digitally.

"Because of the way the earthquake hit, the repair and rebuild work that was necessary we got to look through the whole city," said Katharine Watson, founder of Museum of Archaeology Ōtautahi.

Among the treasures were political tobacco smoking pipes, a treddle sewing machine from Ballantynes, domestic glassware and plates, and hats preserved in a gully. 

Plus, more than 100 seltzer bottles all the way from what was then called Prussia - a health drink described as pungent.

The collection depicts a rich tapestry of generations past that anyone the world over can tap into.

"For people who have ancestors from Christchurch or who have lived here, I hope they find that personal connection in a way that I've been able to," said Jessie Garland, co-founder of Christchurch Archaeology Project.

Christchurch's deputy mayor Pauline Cotter learnt something too. 

"I had a wee peek at High Street. My grandfather came out from Ireland in 1914 and started Cotter's Electrical," she told Newshub.

"I had a look this morning and saw there were a few whiskey bottles - I guess that's not surprising!"

"This is really the tangible history of an intangible history that is a cultural history, a social history, that puts life to that and can be connected back to people," said Jenny May, a heritage consultant at Heritage Management.

The online database was a first step, and the next is a physical display, "where people can come in and do their own research, or we can put on exhibitions or school children can come in or we can engage more people with their past," Watson said.