Learning and research – Te Papa Foundation

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has a leadership responsibility among all New Zealand museums and a deep commitment to scholarship, innovation, and learning for people across all ages.  

Since 1998 Te Papa has embraced its responsibility to meet future challenges and is recognised as an agent of change in learning and research, seeking to be New Zealand’s leading centre for research and informal learning.

Children using a museum interactive


Visitors on the Te Papa Kids Trail. Photograph by Mike O’Neill, © Te Papa

How do we shape the future?
How do we learn from the past?

Learning – a nonstop journey in a very large classroom that is Te Papa

Te Papa is at the forefront of learning and sharing for current and future generations. From the time it opened Te Papa has delivered a series of public programmes and workshops across not only its learning sectors but also in conjunction with its major exhibitions. To nurture and to increase learning opportunities across all ages remains a core part of Te Papa.

Te Papa is developing progressive and innovative learning initiatives involving digital technologies including virtual reality, 3D and touch tables to provide greater outreach. All of this demands greater financial support. 

Examining a specimen in a storage room


Rick Webber, Curator Invertebrates, with Lobster. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl, © Te Papa 


Since the establishment of the Colonial Museum in 1865 the national museum has developed a proud history of scientific discovery and dissemination, often in collaboration with other institutions nationally and internationally.

Te Papa’s science activities centres on the care and development of a globally important collection, an active research programme and an increasingly expansive outreach programme. These include in-house and touring exhibitions, education initiatives, the publication of scientific and popular articles, dissemination of a range of digital products and a suite of public seminars and professional presentations.

The collections comprise millions of specimens, including unique and historically significant material. Through 15 decades of collaborative work, insight and dedication, the collections have been built up by scientists and collectors nationally. The collection contains specimens across all biological groups and from throughout New Zealand, its offshore islands, Antarctic territories and dependencies and from across the Asia-Pacific region.

The challenge is to make these collections and the research increasingly accessible to a wider range of audiences and to support and grow the network of groups interested in science while ensuring the specimens are also kept safe.

Holotype specimen in jar


Crested weedfishCristiceps aurantiacus Castelnau, 1879, collected Bay of Islands, New Zealand. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (P.000053)

A year of science at Te Papa

It is worthwhile noting an impressive list of achievements in a 12-month period

  • 700,000 Squid Fans – this is the number of online visitors who followed the Science Live Squid event in September 2014. Te Papa produced media streamed live to YouTube plus blog posts.
  • A new natural history exhibition and citizen science activities, Declassified opened in December 2014 and described some of Te Papa’s recent scientific discoveries to visitors online and in the galleries.
  • The new genetics lab at Te Papa’s Tory Street facility was commissioned, and opened in August 2015, enabling researchers to do a suite of genetics research programmes in-house.
  • 58 scientific articles were published in peer reviewed journals during 2014-15 on five major research themes.
  • Over 10,000 specimens were accessioned into the collections including a colossal squid and important collections of plants, insects, molluscs, worms, fossils, fishes, lizards and amphibians. This work was primarily undertaken by the Collection Managers.
  • Two major Collections were acquired: The Whittaker Herpetology Collection (reptiles and amphibians) comprising 1000 jars of voucher records of species that had come into New Zealand from overseas; and the NIWA Christchurch Freshwater Fishes Collection, comprising 3500 jars covering the endemic freshwater fishes as well as species introduced.

Contact us

To talk to us about how you would like to support the Foundation:

Email: HeadofFoundation@tepapafoundation.org.nz
Ph: 04 3817198

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