Threading history through the Aloha shirt: From Hawai‘i to Aotearoa

Aloha shirt

The Aloha shirt is an iconic Hawaiian taonga (treasure) with a rich history and layers of meaning. Assistant Pacific Cultures curator Sonya Withers explores the stories in their designs. If there is any culture across the Pacific rim that can naturally produce clever combinations of colours and the romantic scenery of their islands through the wardrobe of fashion it… Read more »

Conserving Rongowhakaata’s fragile ‘Iron Man’

Injecting stabilisers, 2017. Photo by Rachael Hockridge. Te Papa

One of the significant taonga exhibited in Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow is a nose-less poutokomanawa (centre post) called Rongotueruora, affectionately known as ‘Iron Man’ due to his iron shoulder pads and rāpaki (skirt). This taonga was in a very fragile state when conservator Nirmala Balram came to inspect him. Nirmala takes… Read more »

A trip to remote Tokelau: Life a few metres above sea level

Aerial view of Atafu atoll

The Pacific island nation of Tokelau is one of the most remote places on the planet, and, with the entire country sitting metres above sea level, one of the most under threat from climate change. Media creator Kate Whitley describes the journey to this vulnerable ‘necklace of small islands’. In November 2017 a small group… Read more »

Cigarette packets and chocolate boxes: How we used to store our collections

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Storing collections in the right space and environment is incredibly important in museums – so would you be surprised to see natural history specimens stored in colourful vintage cigarette packets? Curator Alan Tennyson and conservator Robert Clendon shed light on past practice. Modern museum storage involves rows and rows of uniform beige and grey boxes,… Read more »

Te reo Kiwi: Are you using Māori every day?

  • Te Papa
  • Fridge
  • Weaving family together
  • Manu

Te Papa is always looking for creative ways to promote te reo Māori. What are some of the ways we’re doing that? How’s the whānau? What’s your favourite kai? Can you count to tekau? Some New Zealanders use Māori kupu in everyday conversation, dropping Māori words into English. If that’s you, then you’re talking what… Read more »

A plastered pastoral for Christmas

  • Pan and Syrinx
*oil on panel
*40,3 x 61 cm
*ca 1617
  • Studies of nose mouth
  • José_Ribera
  • Ribera nativity

Dr Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, looks at a remarkable print of drunken excess in the collection by 17th century Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera. In my previous Christmas blogs, I have focused on art works that emphasise the spiritual: Madonna and Child and Adoration themes in Te Papa’s collection, New Zealand’s early ‘Old… Read more »

‘It’s the objects that sparkle, not me’: A day in the life of an art collection manager

Anna Brookes in the art storerooms

Museum jobs are hugely varied and there are hundreds of us who work behind the scenes caring for collection objects and getting exhibitions ready. One of these roles is undertaken by our collection managers. Art collection manager Anna Brookes shares with us what she gets up to day to day and her tips for getting into… Read more »

Ancient colossal penguin bones discovered in Otago

  • Alan shows the location of the found bones on a to-size drawing of the penguin
  • Alan and his mum Bice looking at the penguin bones
  • Penguin illustration Tess Cole
  • S 045877 Fossil penguin vs Emperor Penguin scaled 4000px

What do you do when you discover what is possibly the largest penguin ever? You name it after your mum. This is what Curator Vertebrates Alan Tennyson – who has a paper on the discovery out today – did. The emperor penguin is a truly impressive mound of bird but it would have been relatively small in comparison… Read more »