Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Short Trip through the Te Papa Museum

Dennis, Larry and Sherry at the Te Papa Museum
Wellington is a great city for walking. It is also the Capital of New Zealand and hosts the National Museum of New Zealand, the Te Papa. It houses an extraordinary display of historic and modern culture and technology. It is six floors of exhibits and interactive vignettes. A visit here is definitely an all day experience and it was especially nice on a rainy day. In fact, one could spend several days here.

This now extinct bird used to live here.
Admission is free! We signed up with a docent for a tour and it was well worth the ticket price. She shared so much culture and history that it made the museum come to life. Not only that, but she shared her family’s history relative to a number of the exhibits we saw. That certainly gave a great deal more meaning to the displays. I noticed that each of the indigenous docents adds personal information to her presentation.

The whole museum is highly interactive so it holds you in its grip. The full name of the museum is “Te Papa Tongarewa,” which is loosely translated as “treasure box.” And it is a real treasure! They have an amazing collection of Maori artifacts, the national art collection and its own marae.

A marae is a courtyard surrounded by a complex where the rituals of hapu life are conducted. The rituals of hapu life include hui (gatherings), tangi (funeral wakes) and powhiri (formal welcomes). The complex may include a whare runange (meeting house, or whare nui), whare manuhiri (house for visitors), whare kai (eating house) and an old fashion pataka (raised storehouse). Essentially, this is the center of combined community, cultural and ceremonial activities and where cultural values, protocols, customs and the vitality of Maoritanga find its fullest expression.  All visitors to a marae must not enter without an invitation.

In the Te Papa, there is even an earthquake simulator. Visitors can experience the feeling of a real earthquake without the destruction. New Zealand is located along the Pacific plates that are constantly moving and in the process generate volcanic activity and earthquakes.
New Zealand has invested more than $350 million to create this museum and all of the experiences within it. It opened in 1998 and the design involved extensive consultation with the iwi (tribes). Much effort was put into getting it right! As we learned from the visit to the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi, the Maori and the British have had different perspectives on New Zealand history!
Throughout New Zealand, we have found that the indigenous people a willing to share their history and culture. It brings it to life when there is a personal connection. Enjoy your walk through the Te Papa with our photographs.

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