Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum of New Zealand, located in Wellington. It is branded and commonly known as Te Papa and Our Place; "Te Papa Tongarewa" is broadly translatable as "the place of treasures of this land". The museum collection's code is MNZ. The museum's principles incorporate the concepts of unified collections; the narratives of culture and place; the idea of forum; the bicultural partnership between Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti; and an emphasis on diversity and multidisciplinary collaboration.

The first predecessor of Te Papa was the Colonial Museum, founded in 1865, of which James Hector was the founding director. It was built on Museum Street. Halfway through the 1930s the museum moved to a new building in Buckle Street, where the National Art Gallery of New Zealand was housed too. Te Papa was established in 1992, by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992. The official opening took place on February 14, 1998 in a ceremony led by Sir Peter Blake, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, and two children. The first Chief Executive of the Museum was Dame Cheryll Sotheran. The museum had one million visitors in the first five months of operation, and between 1 and 1.3 million visits have been made in each subsequent year. In 2004, more space was devoted to exhibiting works from the New Zealand art collection in a long-term exhibition called Toi Te Papa: Art of the Nation. Filmmakers Gaylene Preston and Anna Cottrell documented the development of Te Papa in their film Getting to Our Place.

The main Te Papa building is on the waterfront in Wellington, on Cable Street. Inside the building are six storeys of exhibitions, cafés and gift shops dedicated to New Zealand's culture and environment. The museum also incorporates outdoor areas with artificial caves, native bushes and wetlands. A second building on Tory Street is a scientific research facility and storage area, and is not open to the public. Te Papa was designed by Jasmax Architects and built by Fletcher Construction. The 36,000 square metre building had cost NZ$300 million by its opening in 1998. Earthquake strengthening of the Cable Street building was achieved through the New Zealand-developed technology of base isolation - essentially seating the entire building on supports made from lead, steel and rubber that slow down the effect of an earthquake. The building's thousands of lights are under state of the art computer control, adapt with the changing environment, and can be controlled from one central location. The site was previously occupied by a modern five-storey hotel. This was jacked off its foundations onto numerous rail bogies and transported 200 metres down and across the road to a new site, where it is now the Museum Hotel.

Online access to Te Papa's collections is available at Collections Online. The collections of Te Papa include :

The History Collection counts around 27,000 items, of which some 5,000 are dresses and textiles, the oldest of which date back to the sixteenth century. The History Collection also includes the New Zealand Post Archive with around 20,000 stamps and related objects. A different part of the History Collection is the Pacific Collection with about 13,000 historic and contemporary items from the Pacific Islands.

Natural history
These includes collections on:
  • Fossil Vertebrates or Archaeozoology
  • Plants; mainly a herbarium of about 250,000 dried specimen.
  • Birds; a collection of 70,000 specimen of New Zealand birds.
  • Other land vertebrates ( amphibians, reptiles and mammals)
  • Marine mammals
  • Insects, spiders and similar
  • Fishes
  • Molluscs
  • Crustacea
  • Other marine invertebrates
The museum holds the world's largest specimen of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni , the colossal squid. The half a ton, 33-foot (10 m) long specimen arrived at the museum in March 2007, after being captured in New Zealand waters a month before.

These includes collections on:
  • Art and visual culture
  • Photography
  • Taonga MÄori (MÄori cultural treasures)
  • Pacific cultures
  • Social History and visual culture
  • Archives

The Archives are located in a separate building at Tory Street and are open for researchers on appointment. There are two categories of archive collections:
  • The Museum Archives, that go back to the founding of the Colonial Museum in 1865 and that comprise the archives of James Hector. The archives of the National Art Gallery are also part of these archives.
  • The Collected Archives. These fall apart in two groups:
    • art related records and other archival papers in specialist areas (with for instance the archives of Sir Tosswill Woollaston, Lois White and Leonard Mitchell)
    • a wide variety of archival material, that include the diary of Felton Mathew, Surveyor General at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and battle plans and correspondences related to World War I ”“ for instance the Gallipoli diary of Captain E.P. Cox.

Te Aka Matua Library, previously a publicly accessible library, is now open only to researchers by appointment between 10am-5pm, Monday-Friday. The library is a major research and reference resource, with particular strengths in New Zealand, MÄori, natural history, art, photography and museum studies. It is located on the fourth floor of the main building.

Some of the exhibitions are long term exhibitions. Although the content of these exhibitions may vary, the exhibitions themselves are permanent:
  • Awesome Forces (level 2)
  • Mountains to Sea (level 2)
  • Bush City (level 2)
  • Blood, Earth, Fire ”“ WhÄngai, Whenua, Ahi KÄ; the transformation of Aotearoa New Zealand (level 3)
  • Mana Whenua and The Marae (level 4) about MÄori life and heritage.
  • Tangata o le Moana (level 4) ”“ the story of Pacific people in New Zealand
  • Signs of a Nation (level 4) ”“ about the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Golden Days (level 4)
  • Passports (level 4)
  • Toi Te Papa Art of the Nation (level 5)
Our Space Opened on 27 September 2008 is Te Papa's interactive multimedia exhibition space Our Space. This interactive space was produced in partnership with the production company Gibson Group and contains digital images, photographs and clips that reflect local and regional stories, promote the New Zealand identity in all its diversity and show the experiences of life in Aotearoa / New Zealand. The exhibition consists of two spaces where digital material is displayed in a multimedia environment. ' The Map' - visitors are able to interact with a large satellite map of New Zealand laid out on the floor. Images (moving and still) giving a flavour of various localities play on screens behind a dark glass wall. These screens are only brought to life by visitor footsteps on the map - i.e. feet touching tiny sensors under the floor ignite the relevant screen out of 30 regional screens in total. The images are supplied to the screens via an Image database. ' The Wall' - visitors are able to select images and media from the Image database using touch screens. Images from contributing photographers , filmmakers and artists from all over the country combine with images from the Te Papa collections and slices of television clips and music videos to make up the database. This is all available for the visitor to construct their own mural/story on a 2 metre high Wall. This is a collective space that is about the visitor having their say about who they are and what they are into. All media in the Wall space may be cropped, rotated, drawn on or looped. Contributions of digital material to Our Space are being sought via the Our Space website and also via the Our Space Flickr group. Some of the temporary exhibitions of Te Papa were/are:
  • On the Sheep's Back (11 Nov. 2003 ”“ 22 April 2007)
  • Stamped (16 July 2005 ”“ 15 January 2006)
  • Whales TohorĠ(1 Dec. 2007 ”“ 11 May 2008)
  • Made in New Zealand (19 Nov 2004 - 30 May 2005)

The museum has sometimes been the centre of controversy. The siting of significant collections at the water's edge on reclaimed land next to one of the world's most active earthquake fault lines has resulted in concern by some people. There has been criticism of the 'sideshow' nature of some exhibits (primarily the Time Warp section, which has since closed). There has also been criticism that some exhibits were not given due reverence. For example, a major work by Colin McCahon was at one stage juxtaposed with a 1950s refrigerator in a New Zealand culture exhibition. In March 1998 a 7 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary sheathed in a condom called Virgin in a Condom , an art work by Tania Kovat attracted protests by Christians. In December 2005, Te Papa announced a postponement to the long term Toi Te Papa: Art of The Nation exhibition, that was to coincide with the Wellington Arts Festival. The museum instead repeated a Lord of the Rings exhibition while not updating their website to reflect the change. This caused outrage amongst many in the New Zealand art community. In October 2006, the New Zealand Defence Industry Association held their annual conference at Te Papa for the fourth consecutive year. Protesters blockaded the front entrance of the museum, preventing access to visitors. In a similar protest the previous year twenty people were arrested. The museum's logo, a thumbprint, caused considerable controversy when it was publicised that its development had cost $300,000 - which was actually the cost of the entire branding effort. New Zealand art commentator Hamish Keith has been a consistent critic of Te Papa at different times referring to it as a "theme park", the "cultural equivalent to a fast-food outlet" and "not even a de facto national gallery"