The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum of New Zealand. 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.
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
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” .
The collections of Te Papa include:
The museum holds the world's largest specimen of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, the colossal squid. The half a ton, long specimen arrived at the museum in March 2007, after being captured in New Zealand waters a month before.
Some of the temporary exhibitions of Te Papa were/are:
Due to open in 27 September 2008 is Te Papa's interactive multimedia exhibition space Our Space. This interactive space is being constructed with the production company Gibson Group and will contain digital images, photographs and clips that reflect local and regional stories, promote the New Zealand identity in all its diversity and show the experience of life in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
The exhibition will have are two spaces where digital material will be displayed in a multmedia environment.
The Map - visitors will be 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 will play on screens behind a dark glass wall. These screens will only be brought to life by visitor footsteps on the map - i.e. feet touching tiny sensors under the floor will ignite the relevant screen out of 30 regional screens in total. The images will be supplied to the screens via an Image database.
The Wall - visitors will be 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 will combine with images from the Te Papa collections and slices of television clips and music videos to make up the database. This will all be 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.
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"