Featured exhibits
Whakaaturanga motuhake

Independent objects on show around Te Papa.

  • When Long-term exhibition
  • Where Throughout Te Papa
  • Cost Free entry

You’ll find independent objects and artworks on show around the museum. These outstanding items are separate from our exhibitions and highlight unique or unusual aspects of New Zealand’s identity and history.

On this page:
Entrance boulders
Spinning ball
First contact: The Endeavour cannon and de Surville’s anchor
VOID
Phar Lap
Tiger Moth

Entrance boulders

Where: Te Papa Plaza

These three boulders, outside Te Papa’s main entrance, symbolise our commitment to New Zealand’s land and people.

The boulders represent:

  • Papatūānuku – the earth mother (the middle stone)
  • Tangata whenua – Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand (the stone nearest Cable Street)
  • Tangata Tiriti – people in New Zealand by right of the Treaty of Waitangi (the stone nearest our entrance).

Rock types

The Papatūānuku and tangata whenua boulders are andesite lava that erupted from Mt Taranaki about 75,000 years ago. They come from a laharlahar a raging river of mud, snow, and ice that flows down a volcano, which made the rocks smooth.

The Tangata Tiriti boulder is Karamea granite, an igneous rockigneous rock formed from a molten state. The granite is about 350 million years old and comes from the Ōpārara River, north of Karamea. Granite represents solidity and permanence. Its various colours symbolise the diversity of Tangata Tiriti in New Zealand.

Spinning ball

Where: Entrance

The Sponsorship Recognition Stone acknowledges Te Papa’s founding sponsors.

The stone:

  • is 1.4 billion years old – the oldest material in Te Papa
  • is made from gabbro, a coarse crystalline basalt (often called Swedish ebony granite) from Transvaal, South Africa
  • sits on a base stone of Indian Hassan green granite
  • weighs 0.79 tonnes
  • measures 82 centimetres in diameter
  • was machined by the Kusser Granit company in Germany.

How does it spin?

Low-pressure water from a 500-litre tank provides the power to rotate the ball. The layer of water between ball and base is just 0.2 millimetres thick. Solenoid-controlled jets pulse the water to keep the ball moving when no one is pushing it.

For hygiene reasons, the water is treated with swimming-pool chemicals and changed weekly.

First contact

See relics from early European voyages to the Pacific – a cannon from James Cook’s Endeavour and an anchor from Jean François Marie de Surville’s St Jean Baptiste. These mark the first significant contacts between Māori and Europeans.

The Endeavour cannon

Where: Stairs, Level 3

Cannon, from HMB Endeavour., circa 1750, England, by Joseph Christopher. Gift of the Australian Government, 1970. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (DM000477)

Caption

Cannon, from HMB Endeavour., circa 1750, England, by Joseph Christopher. Gift of the Australian Government, 1970. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (DM000477)

Collections Online: The Endeavour cannon

De Surville’s anchor

Where: On the wall inside main entrance, Level 1

Anchor, circa 1760, France, maker unknown. Gift of Mike Bearsley and Kelly Tarlton, 1974. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (NS000047/2)

Caption

Anchor, circa 1760, France, maker unknown. Gift of Mike Bearsley and Kelly Tarlton, 1974. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (NS000047/2)

Collections Online: De Surville’s anchor

VOID

Where: Visible from Levels 2 to 6

VOID, 2006, Wellington, by Bill Culbert, Ralph Hotere. Commissioned 2006. Te Papa (2006-0032-1)

Caption

VOID, 2006, Wellington, by Bill Culbert, Ralph Hotere. Commissioned 2006. Te Papa (2006-0032-1)

VOID is permanently installed at the heart of the museum and activates the space between the Wellington Foyer and the ceiling of Level 6.

It is a collaborative work by Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere, commissioned by Te Papa and installed in 2006.

Read an interview about VOID with Bill Culbert

Phar Lap

Where: Near stairs, Level 4

Horse, Equus caballus, collected 05 Apr 1932, Menlo Park, California, United States of America. Gift of DJ Davis and HR Telford, 1932. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (LM000760)

Caption

Horse, Equus caballus, collected 05 Apr 1932, Menlo Park, California, United States of America. Gift of DJ Davis and HR Telford, 1932. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (LM000760)

Phar Lap was a legendary racehorse and an adored animal hero for a generation of people in New Zealand. You can pay your respects to his bones here, in the country he was born – but his hide is in Australia (where he mostly raced).

Collections Online: Phar Lap
Phar Lap on our blog
Video: Phar Lap, presented by What Now (starts at 1.51 minutes)

Tiger Moth

Where: Level 4, near Golden Days

DH82a Tiger Moth, ZK-AJO, 1941, Wellington, by de Havilland (NZ) Aircraft Co., Ltd. Purchased 2009. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH012131)

Caption

DH82a Tiger Moth, ZK-AJO, 1941, Wellington, by de Havilland (NZ) Aircraft Co., Ltd. Purchased 2009. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH012131)

Look up! Tiger Moth aeroplanes have a key place in the story of aerial topdressing – the technology that revolutionised New Zealand’s agriculture.

Collections Online: De Havilland’s Tiger Moth aircraft