Te Papa receives funding for new storage facility

Te Papa has been allocated $42.9 million in Budget 2022 to create a new storage and research facility that will house part of New Zealand’s natural history collection.

The new facility will house more than 866,000 specimens of fish, invertebrates and reptiles which are stored in jars of alcohol. They are known as “spirit collections” or “wet collections” and the facility is known as the Spirit Collection Area.

Because this is a nationally-significant collection, it must be housed in a highly earthquake-proof building. In addition, the alcohol used as a preservative means the store is a hazardous substances facility, requiring specialised safety measures.

Te Papa Board Chair Dame Fran Wilde said the funding was an important investment to meet a highly-specialised need.

“A new building on a new site will ensure that the collections are safely housed and accessible for the future,” Dame Fran Wilde said.

“These collections enable New Zealand to understand the history of its environment and make informed predictions about its future.”

“This will be especially important for research into areas such as the impact of climate change on our fisheries,” said Dame Fran Wilde.

Te Papa Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive Courtney Johnston welcomed the investment.

“This irreplaceable collection of national treasures will now be protected for future generations,” Ms Johnston says.

“These taonga can tell us so much about Aotearoa, and this facility will enable researchers to access that knowledge for many years to come.”

The oldest specimen in the collection is a hoki, caught in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara | Wellington Harbour in 1869.

In addition to smaller specimens in jars, the collection includes colossal squid, sharks and other large species held in purpose-built containers.

Te Papa Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai said the spirit collection was an important source of mātauranga | knowledge.

“This new facility will provide opportunities to engage and partner with Mana Whenua and Iwi in the advancement of mātauranga Māori,” said Dr Hakiwai.

The funding appropriated in this year’s Budget enables Te Papa to complete planning, design and procurement for the project. Further funds could then be appropriated to build the facility.

Other funding received by Te Papa in Budget 2022

  • $12 million over four years to Te Papa to address critical workforce cost pressures, support programme delivery, and for further support against the effects of Covid-19.

  • $1 million to the Museum Hardship Fund, administered by Te Papa, to help other entities address the impacts of Covid-19.

Background – about the spirit collection

The spirit collection consists of many different groups including crustacea, molluscs, other marine invertebrates and reptiles. The largest and most significant group in this collection is the National Fish Collection; with approximately 260,000 fish specimens, and a value of $24 million, it is the largest and most comprehensive collection of preserved fishes in the country, and the largest collection of New Zealand and Southern Ocean fishes anywhere in the world. The collection holds most of the primary types of New Zealand fish species and is irreplaceable due to the historical context of the specimens collected. The spirit collection currently uses 111,000 litres of alcohol-based fluid to preserve its collections.

The spirit collection is currently housed in Te Papa’s storage and research facility in Tory Street, Wellington (not the same site as the museum).

Media contact: Kate Camp
Head of Marketing and Communications | Kaiwhakahaere Whakapā
029 601 0180