Golden Days Entrance

Golden Days 

Sessions run every 20 minutes
Level 4
Free entry
Family; People and history 

A startling piece of 'walk-in theatre', Golden Days is one of Te Papa's most innovative and popular places. Entering an atmospheric and cluttered 'junkshop', you trigger a magical drama as the key moments in the life of our country play before you.

Find out how Golden Days was developed

This is a celebration of what makes us tick, told through high-impact film and ingeniously devised automated object theatre.

Golden Days is open from 10am daily, with sessions running every 20 minutes. It is a very popular! Avoid disappointment by booking with the Golden Days Host on arrival. 

What will you see?

Tragedy and triumph are portrayed, the national and the personal – from a beach-ball bouncing across the hot sand, to Lovelock bringing home Olympic gold. Defining moments such as the Erebus, Wahine, and Tangiwai disasters. Pride in the All Blacks. The achievements of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The nostalgia of calf-day.

What historic New Zealand events are portrayed?

Radio broadcast audio supplied for the exhibition from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero.


How was Golden Days developed?

This idea required the development of robust robotics which could sustain years of use. Model-maker Rob Uivel built the robotics. In all there are 26different motorised robots, including a motor mower, machine gun, photograph album, and a tui.

Alan Honey was asked to produce computer programmes that direct the images and audio in sequence with the robotics.

Inside Golden Days Exhibition
Inside the Golden Days Exhibition

Dean Cato supervised the buying of all of the props for the ‘junkshop’. This involved a long search for items that would be typical of a junkshop and have a recognisable New Zealand identity or flavour.

Head researcher Kay Seatter-Dunbar and other researchers travelled around New Zealand searching for archival film footage and images, both still and moving. One of the most exciting finds was colour footage filmed in Greymouth of the 1953 visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

The 13-minute film is projected onto a four by 2-metre screen, has a stereophonic sound track, and is made up of 2,500 images of New Zealand. The 'junkshop view' of the street represents a New Zealand city at 5pm.

What historic New Zealand events are shown in Golden Days?

  • Mt Tarawera eruption (1886)
  • Royal visit by the Queen (1953)
  • Tangiwai disaster (Christmas Eve 1953)
  • Hawke's Bay earthquake (1931)
  • Ballentynes fire in Christchurch (18 November 1947)
  • Inangahua earthquake (1968)
  • Wahine sinking (1968)
  • Mt Erebus plane crash (1979)
  • The death of Prime Minister Norman Kirk (1974)
  • Young people at James K Baxter's funeral
  • Princess Te Puea’s burial
  • Poverty Bay floods (1950)
  • Hutt Valley floods (1976)
  • Mount Ruapehu erupting (1996)


  • Dame Whina Cooper on the Māori Land March (1975)
  • Bastion Point
  • Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior