Te Papa Tongarewa - The Wellington Museum

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, literally our place, is a must have experience for all visitors. The Museum is located on Cable Street, Wellington, originally named the Colonial Museum in 1865, changed to the Dominion Museum in 1907 and then the National Museum in 1972. The building was given its present name under the 1992 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act.


The Act established the functions of the museum as follows:

  • A depository for art collections and items concerned with the natural environment and with history that was accessible to the public.
  • For the conduct of research regarding the collections and areas of interest surrounding them
  • To give assistance to the associated research of others.

The main aim of the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum was its representation of the increasingly diverse community of New Zealand. During the 1990s it was the aim of the authorities to unite the National Art Gallery and the National Museum under one roof. A primary purpose of this new entity was to provide an interactive experience of the history, art and cultural heritage of New Zealand. While the Act concerning the museum was passed in 1992, Te Papa was not officially completed and opened until February 14th 1998. Entrance to the museum is free but there may be small charges for particular short term exhibitions. While you are there take a break in the Te Papa café and buy souvenirs in the Te Papa shop.

Heart of the City Experience

The museum, in the centre of Wellington, is a landmark building that offers its visitors stunning views of the harbour. Earthquake protection was vital in the planning of the building because it was erected on reclaimed land. The museum was designed to express the dual culture of New Zealand and the Marae Rongomaraeroa is designed as an inclusive space within the museum that reflects Maori values and customs. The only permanent exhibition in Te Papa is that relating to Maori culture and history although the protocols vary depending on which tribal group is in residence. The tribal groups work with the museum to produce an exhibition every few years.

Marae in the Wellington Museum

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is community focussed and education and learning experiences for students and for members of the public is part of this focus. Exhibitions in late 2011 include an exploration of the cultural history of the Pacific, aimed specifically at 4-10 year olds. Education programmes are made up of workshops and visual and audio experiences of the subject under study. The programmes are linked to the school curriculum and aimed at different age groups, school visits run throughout the school year.

Wellington Museum Collections

The museum’s National Art collection opened in 1905 and included international works as well as early New Zealand collections. Highlights of the art collections are 20th century British and New Zealand works and include watercolours as well as British, New Zealand and international photographic works. The museum policies for art and visual collections incorporate emerging artists, national commercial design and contemporary national and international works.

The Pacific Cultures collection includes a feathered cloak from 1779 that was given to Captain Cook along with other items that he collected on his Pacific voyages. The collection includes Samoan canoes and examples of Pacific cultural handiwork, specifically some decorated bark cloth and mats. The Pacific artefacts have only existed as a separate collection since the early nineteen nineties, and were part of the previously named Foreign Ethnology Section. Presently the collection includes around 13,000 contemporary and historical items from the Pacific, including Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands.

The Taonga Maori collection has more than 30,000 Maori treasures, ranging from tribal earrings and clothing to weaponry and archaeological exhibits of pieces of stone, shell and mammal and bird bones. The collection also includes contemporary Maori visual culture that reflects cultural continuity and change. The underlying principle of the collection is that it communicates truths about the people of New Zealand.

The Natural Environments collection contains more than a million plant and animal specimens and is the country’s most comprehensive collection of its fauna and flora. Research into the natural environment is ongoing and new specimens are continually added to the collection, providing information for environmental scholars, the general public and industries. From September 2011 until 2014 there is an experiential exhibition, that takes visitors on a journey with the Taimui people from their East Polynesian origins to their current existence in New Zealand.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa offers visitors a wealth of information and a cultural experience that will enhance their understanding of the country and its people.


Guest author: 

Daisy is an avid traveler, adventure seeker, and someone who is fascinated by different cultures and destinations throughout the world. Besides being an avid traveler, Daisy enjoys writing, her work can be found at the Hawaii Travel Guide website. As you can tell she enjoys Hawaii, and one of her most memorable trip's so far has been taking the Hawaii helicopter tour through the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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