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 like most museums in the country is free to enter. 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. It’s not every day you get to see a touch projector display – it is indeed very hard to describe with words.
The National Museum of New Zealand is one of the best ways to learn history about New Zealand in one place. There’s a very good reason that Te Papa is often described as the best free activity in New Zealand.
Te Papa Exhibitions – Highlights
There are always temporary exhibits at the museum, visit the official website for the latest on offer. Listed below are the long term exhibitions at the museum. There’s so much to do that I highly recommend you checking out which exhibits you most want to see so that you don’t miss them!
Blood Earth Fire
Level 3 – This is quite a sad exhibition in that you examine what New Zealand used to be like before human habitation and how the landscape and wildlife living here changed so dramatically after our arrival. There is some optimism though, looking at how we now care for the land.
Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow
Level 4 – This is an exhibition you can’t miss. It’s all about the Rongowhakaata Iwi (Iwi can be described as a tribe), their taonga (treasures), their history and their art.
Level 1 – Outside. You might have heard that New Zealand sometimes experiences earthquakes. Quake Braker is where you can see how Te Papa has been designed to withstand an earthquake with the invention of base isolators. Many buildings around the world that are located in earthquake prone zones now also have base isolators to help protect them.
Levels 1 and 2 Outside – This part of the museum is quite easy to miss (especially if it’s raining and you don’t fancy going outside) but you absolutely should visit it. It’s a great area to take a break and enjoy the native plants and the lovely views of the harbour.
Level 4 – Phar Lap was one the most famous racehorses in the world and this exhibit celebrates everything about him and his achievements.
Level 4. Te Papa has actually built a marae within the museum. “The marae (meeting grounds) is the focal point of Māori communities throughout New Zealand. A marae is a fenced-in complex of carved buildings and grounds that belongs to a particular iwi (tribe), hapū (sub tribe) or whānau (family).” – source
Treaty of Waitangi: Signs of a nation
Level 4 – The Treaty of Waitangi is one of the most important documents in New Zealand. It’s the founding document of the country which was signed in 1840 by more than 500 Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown. You can also see some of the tribes taonga and learn about the conflict in the years after the Treaty was signed.
You might be interested to learn more about Waitangi Day
Tangata o le Moana: The story of Pacific people in New Zealand
Level 4 – If you want to learn more about the history and culture of the Pacific people then this exhibit is a must visit. You can see waka’s (canoes), contemporary jewellery and music and find out about the first Pacific captain of the All Blacks – Tana Umaga.
Tūrangawaewae: Art and New Zealand
Level 5 – if you’re a fan of art then head to level 5 to see collections of Kiwi paintings, sculpture and photography.
There are many more long term exhibitions but the above are definitely some of the highlights for me!
Te Papa Opening Hours
The Museum is open every single day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 6pm.
Te Papa Prices
As stated, it’s free to enter Te Papa, but there is a cost for some temporary exhibitions and activities. There are several guided tours on offer if you feel lazy reading all the signs and explanations, which are particularly useful if you’re short on time.
- Introducing Te Papa – 3 tours a day – $20
- Maori Highlights Tour – 2pm (60 minutes) – $20
- Twilight Express Tour – 5pm (45 minutes) – $20
- Gallipoli Early Bird Tour – 9.30am – $15 (Gallipoli exhibit ends in April 2019)
(Further enquiries please call Te Papa Museum on +64 (4) 381 7000 or visit them online www.tepapa.govt.nz)
My Day at Te Papa
Because of the size of the museum, 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 was 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 was 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. 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.