National Library of New Zealand and He Tohu, Wellington

02He Tohu is a wonderfully designed ‘treasure box’ designed to display three of the most important constitutional documents in New Zealand’s history. Inside this beautiful wooden space are the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

The outside of the space has some gorgeous wooden ripples, while a glass sculpture of suffragette Kate Sheppard watches over.

Also nearby is a colourful and skilfully carved piece of Māori sculpture, the like of which I’ve not really seen elsewhere, it’s pretty special.

The whole thing is a vast improvement on their previous display at the nearby National Archives in an exhibition space designed in 1989. I visited it seven years ago on my first trip to Wellington, and was pretty underwhelmed.

From the outside the National Library is a pretty brutal concrete structure, but inside it’s relatively light and welcoming, with wide, open floors. It also had a few other exhibitions on, including more polished wood in the Passchendaele space, and a fascinating history of maps of New Zealand.

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