Arts research

Publications and stories

Research areas

Te Papa’s arts research informs our exhibitions, collection development, popular and scholarly publications, and educational and public programmes.

What we study

  • Art works
  • Artists and makers
  • Art materials and processes
  • Art histories, traditions, and movements
  • The social and historical contexts of art production, exhibition, and reception
  • Art conservation and care

Our collection covers a broad spectrum, including fine arts, photography, decorative arts and design, taongataonga treasures, and other cultural practices – from historical to contemporary.

Indigenous arts and cross-cultural focus

Māori arts, and the indigenous arts the Pacific, are focuses of our research, and we recognise the influence of cross-cultural exchange in the arts. We also explore the multiple social roles the arts can play in different cultural contexts.

National and international focus

Our research is focused on the arts of Aotearoa New Zealand, the South Pacific, and the Pacific Rim. We seek to make connections between local practices and international movements and developments, such as Modernism.

We research the work of international artists held in Te Papa’s collections or related to temporary exhibitions.

Collection development and conservation

We take a research-based approach to collecting art works, and we research new ways to preserve and care for all our collection items – from paintings to digital art works.

Documentation and reflection

We document our art works and analyse their use in Te Papa’s activities, such as exhibitions. We also examine the role of the arts within a bicultural and interdisciplinary museum.

Audience engagement

We work with other Te Papa teams to develop new ways to engage Te Papa’s audiences, through education initiatives and interpretation.

Research partnerships and advice

We collaborate with other arts institutions, universities, and professional associations to research artists, art works, and related topics. For example, Te Papa has a Memorandum of Understanding with Victoria University of Wellington. This partnership recognises the mutually beneficial research opportunities and resources across the two organisations.

We provide expert advice to government agencies, such as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Creative New Zealand, and to local, national, and international arts organisations.

We also assist other researchers, including students and publishers.


See our arts experts in our list of curators.