Te Papa celebrates Wellington’s 150th birthday

25 July 2015

Te Papa threw open the doors of its Tory Street storehouse on Saturday July 25, welcoming 2,324 lucky visitors. Thousands more visited Te Papa on the waterfront, where special tours took people to the back of house areas, normally closed to the public.

The open day is part of Wellington’s Capital 150 celebrations.

At Te Papa’s Tory Street storehouse:

  • Visitors wandered through the autopsy room where sea creatures are studied, and saw Te Papa’s second giant squid being prepared for display.

  • In the basement, people walked among skeletons of bears and whales; marvelled over butterflies and giant crabs; and saw the leg bones from Wellington Zoo’s old elephant Kamala.

  • In the bird store, smelling strongly of camphor, they took selfies with albatrosses and stuffed kakapo.

  • In the history store they were fascinated by Shackleton’s sledges, Cook’s telescope, and some groovy 1970s furniture.

  • In the conservation labs they saw how Te Papa’s “art doctors” work to preserve fragile objects, from oil paintings in gilded frames, to a feathered African hat being saved from the ravages of insects.

  • All along the route, they talked to Te Papa’s passionate curators, who amazed them with arcane facts and surprising stories from the collections.

The photos shared on social media, and the visitor’s book at the end, tell the story:

“Wonderful and insightful… great diversity and enthusiasm to share… you guys - love your work… fantastic loved it YAY Te Papa… learned so much… amazing, could explore all day…. one of the most awesome experiences… I loved the wolf… I loved the shark.. it was an honour!! Loved it!!”

At Te Papa on the waterfront, visitors also got a peek behind the scenes with tours of areas normally closed to the public. Treasures on show included: Humpty from Play School; huia feathers; and silver ferns collected on Captain Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand in 1769.

Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis was on site to greet visitors and hear about their day among New Zealand’s treasures.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people here, and to see the joy and fascination on their faces.”

“Hearing the conversations between our curators and visitors, the enthusiasm of kids who want to be marine scientists, or artists, and to see adults re-living their childhood with a steam train model or a 1970’s dining suite - this is what it’s all about.”

Mr Ellis also acknowledged the work of staff in preparing for the open day.

“To open up these back of house areas takes a huge team effort and it’s been months in the planning.”

Te Papa’s collections include some two million objects. As with any museum, only a fraction can be displayed at any time.

“Some of these objects are too fragile to display, some are collected for scientific study, and of course there is a limit to how much we can display at any time.”

“Te Papa is always finding new ways to give access to these collections, by touring them around the country, making them available online, or through back of house experiences like this one.”

On Sunday 26th at Te Papa, percussion group Strike! offer free drumming workshops through the day, culminating in a performance at 2.30pm.

Media contact

Kate Camp
Te Papa Communications Manager
029 601 0180