Te Papa (translation; ‘our place’), the National Museum of New Zealand is located in the city centre of Wellington. It is one of the must dos for the capital and as most museums in the country is free of entrance fees. Of course, donations are much appreciated and after spending some time in this building full of history, you may feel like contributing. Every little helps, said a wise man once!
Te Papa is not your usual museum with boring exhibitions with no sense of logic. It is absolutely visible how much effort they’ve put into creating, designing and organising the exhibitions. It has a very innovative approach and the way the materials are communicated to the audience is technologically impressive. Not every day you get to see a touch projector display – it is indeed very hard to describe with words.
This museum is one of the best ways to learn so much history about New Zealand from one place. There are guided tours if you feel lazy reading all the signs and explanations at the cost of $14 available almost 7 times a day. (for enquiries please call Te Papa Museum on +64 (4) 381 7000 or visit them online www.tepapa.govt.nz)
Because of the size of the exhibitions, we were advised to start from the last floor – level six and continue down to the last ground floor. Level six didn’t impress us much – a sculpture exhibition titled ‘The life of a potter’.
On level five there is a very inspiring exhibition of Brian Brake – one of New Zealand’s most popular and remembered photographers of all times. Although Brian Brake had left his home country and lived more than two decades away from home, he had come back to New Zealand for the last part of his life. The exhibition is called World over the lens and represents more than a hundred photographs from his work from around the world. Breathtaking photos from 1956 and earlier years show what was happening at that time in the world.
Levels 5 and 4 are dedicated to New Zealand’s history. The story of Pacific people in New Zealand and the immigrants life gets you to an earlier stage of the development of the country. A free opportunity to learn about the Maori origins and how the English settled on the islands.
Another crucial part of the evolution of the country is the greenstone or the so called Pounamu. It is a very treasured stone in New Zealand used for tools, peace-makers, pendants. The exhibition features more than 200 pounamu treasures including a stunning display of hei tiki (pendants in the shape of humans carved out of pounamu). Apparently this precious stone is found on the south coast lines. It appears very soft and smooth on the surface (as it’s been washed out while floating in the ocean) but it’s a stone of great mana, beauty and strength. That’s why it’s been used for weapons once upon a time.
The new era has its place in Te Papa featuring Queen Elizabeth, the Gay revolution, technology developments and the economy growth.
In Te Papa time flies by quickly as lots of information is provided to absorb. It is possible to spend more than one day in the museum with a thorough read through of all the explanations. Considering we didn’t have that much spare time, three hours were enough to get our knowledge level about New Zealand a couple of steps higher and leave us inspired.