Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, better known as Te Papa, is the national museum of New Zealand, situated on the Wellington waterfront. The largest museum in the country, Te Papa is a must visit, particularly if the weather is less than ideal, which can happen on occasion in Wellington…

The modernist building is more functional than attractive, more interesting on the inside than the outside. It is vast, a first visit can easily fill half a day or more to see everything. In contrast to the seemingly unchanging Auckland Museum, there’s usually something new to see every time I visit Wellington, generally at least once a year.

Gallipoli : The Scale of Our War is probably the most popular exhibition, best get there when Te Papa opens at 10am or toward the end of the day. It focuses on eight people from the Gallipoli campaign in WW1, a seminal moment in New Zealand history. The hyper realistic oversized figures created by Weta Workshop are quite incredible.

The Natural History galleries were revamped and reopened in May 2016 as Te Taiao Nature, at a cost of $12m. The displays are beautifully presented and there are plenty of interactive exhibits to keep children (and big children) interested. The colossal squid remains a star exhibit, and the tank is much clearer now than when I saw it before the gallery revamp.

From Te Taiao Nature a bridge connects to Bush City, a taste of the New Zealand bush on the Wellington waterfront. There’s a huge sandpit with fake dinosaur bones, perfect for some child archaeology.

The Mana Whenua Maori galleries are wonderful but no photography is permitted for cultural reasons. You can however photograph Te Papa’s Marae, which blew me away when I first encountered it nearly ten years ago. Cliff Whiting’s carvings are unlike any other Maori sculpture I’ve seen.

Despite having the largest public art collection in New Zealand the galleries at Te Papa always felt like an afterthought, small and tucked away on level four. Toi Art was substantially expanded, and reopened in March 2018, though can still only show a fraction of the collection unfortunately. What is on display is pretty good though in my view Auckland Art Gallery (home to the second largest public collection) is a much better experience for any art lovers.

This post only covers perhaps half of what is at Te Papa, that which I have photos of, it’s a big and varied place!

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