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Te Papa Tongarewa: Museum of New Zealand

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Te Papa: its location alone is a treasure.

Strolling along the brilliantly laid-out Wellington waterfront, it’s but a short maritime meander from the CBD to this modern history centre.

‘Rich with symbolism and accessible to all’ say the curators, and it sure has been deliberately designed to cater to the modern museum visitor (it opened in 1998). There is a greater proportion of interactive exhibits than you might initially be used to. And that’s a crazily good thing.

Te Papa delivers, amongst other things, a truly inspiring and interactive look at New Zealand’s history and culture.

If you didn’t know what a Busy Bee or a corrugated iron Holden Kingswood were, you will once you’ve left, and you will feel better for it. A virtual bungy experience? A simulated earthquake, perhaps? Like we said, interactive.

Innovation and approachability are the keys – this is not an intimidating, overly academic institution, but neither is everything ‘dumbed down’ for the ‘lowest common denominator.’ And other clichés. It’s known as ‘our place’ and has become such a unifying entity even Aucklanders are prepared to admit they love it – and, in fact, form a high proportion of the millions of visitors who have passed through the significant foyer in the last 20 years.

There is a large Māori collection, which complements that at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. There is a full-scale marae or meeting place – if you haven’t been welcomed onto one on your way through the country, this gives you a great chance to gain some understanding as to why this forms the centre of Māori social culture.

Other exhibitions change out regularly, so check it out and see what grabs you. The bookshop and a couple of brilliant cafés will give you a chance to recap over a cuppa or pause for breath as you make your next move. You could do days here: there is, after all, three rugby fields’ worth of dedicated exhibition space. Wonderful.

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