Taonga Māori research

Publications and stories

Research areas

Te Papa’s taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori treasures research informs our exhibitions, collection development, popular and scholarly publications, and educational and public programmes.

We aim to reconnect people with their tribal taongataonga treasures and to assist the reclamation of Māori knowledge, language, and customs.

What we study

  • Taonga tūturu – customary arts and art forms
  • Mahi toi – customary arts practices and processes
  • Māori social histories and stories
  • Tribal and community connections to taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori cultural treasures
  • International and national public collections of taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori cultural treasures
  • The social and historical contexts of Māori and indigenous museology, exhibition, and reception
  • Taonga MāoriTaonga Māori Māori cultural treasures conservation and care

Our diverse collection includes contemporary art, contemporary social history, whakairo (wood carving), mahi kōhatu (worked stone), taonga whakapaipai (decorative arts and design), Māori portraiture and figurative representations, te whare pora (Māori textiles), and other cultural practices – from traditional to contemporary.

Cross-cultural focus and interdisciplinary practice

Our Mātauranga MāoriMātauranga Māori Māori knowledge research recognises the influence that cross-cultural knowledge exchange has on mahi toi Māori (customary Māori arts practices and processes). We incorporate whakapapawhakapapa genealogical links shared with Pacific cultures and with Tangata TiritiTangata Tiriti post-Treaty peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand.

We embrace the interdisciplinary nature of Mātauranga MāoriMātauranga Māori Māori knowledge, working across the varied disciplines of art, science, history, and Pacific cultures.

Collection development and conservation

We take a research-based approach to collecting taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori cultural treasures, and we research new ways to preserve and care for our collection items.

Documentation and reflection

We document taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori cultural treasures and analyse their use in Te Papa’s activities, such as exhibitions. We also examine the role of taonga Māori, tikanga Māori (Māori customs), and kawa Māori (Māori protocols) 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 – with a particular focus on Te Papa’s Māori audience engagement.

Research partnerships and advice

We collaborate with other  institutions, universities, and professional associations to research taonga Māoritaonga Māori Māori treasures, customary practice, and related topics.

We assist iwiiwi tribal, hapū (subtribe),  whānauwhānau family, and Crown agencies working on Treaty of Waitangi settlements relating to Te Papa’s collections and research.

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 Taonga Māori experts in our list of curators.