This way up – Kura Pounamu to Beijing

This way up – Kura Pounamu to Beijing

Kura Pounamu is Te Papa’s first exhibition of Maori Taonga in China since the National Museum sent Maori artifacts in 1978.

The mutual appreciation of ‘green stone’ jadite (jade) and nephrite (pounamu) provided an ideal platform for re-establishing a cultural exchange.

The exhibition required ease of installation and minimal object handling to ensure the safety of the taonga. This meant Object Support staff had to find innovative and aesthetic solutions to display all 216 objects. Small and fragile items, matau (fish hooks), pendants, and hei tiki were all stitched to acrylic panels. Fishing line was selected for it’s strength and transparency and the anchor bend knot was selected for absolute non-slip security.

Curator Dougal Austin condition reporting all 216 objects, November 2012. Callum Strong.
Curator Dougal Austin condition reporting all 216 objects, November 2012. Callum Strong.

Larger items like mere and toki were displayed on stainless steel mounts, carefully welded to exact dimensions of each unique taonga.

Exhibition display case. November 2012. Callum Strong
Exhibition display case. November 2012. Callum Strong

Large touchstones were supported on thick acrylic disks, mounted on plinths. The heaviest weighed nearly 200 kgs! An intricate lifting apparatus was designed and fabricated by Object Support staff so that it could disassemble to fit in the crate and be re-assembled on site so either a forklift or six strong people could lift the touch stone into place.

Yi, er, sun TAI (one, two, three LIFT!) Was the first thing Transit Preparator Callum Strong learnt for his role supervising the install at the National Museum of China.

Huaxai Art Handlers lift the 200kg 'Te Huriki' Snowflake. November 2012. Callum Strong
Huaxai Art Handlers lift the 200kg ‘Te Huriki’ Snowflake. November 2012. Callum Strong

The installation went very smoothly with just two minor alterations required to fit the  display cases. The exhibition team of NMC included amazing craftsmen. After some sign language, quick sketches and lots of nodding they fabricated a new lift and mount to maintain the overall quality and safety of the show.

The staff of the NMC were welcoming, friendly and very appreciative to be displaying the national treasures of Aotearoa. Xie xie. Xie xie. (shee-ya) Thank you. Thank you.


  1. This is a fantastic interactive project of cultural exchange between countries who are members of UNESCO but I cannot help feeling that UNESCO itself should be taking a more collaborative active role with the people who are doing the research or organising exhibitions. I realise of course that the UN bodies themselves are perhaps strapped for cash by perhaps the USA under Trump, who seems to be trying to by pass the UN somehow, certainly from my own experience of visiting Geneva in 1993, where I attended lecturers from one of the senior delegates, we pay on the nail. I think in the nicest possible way available,Guterres must now show some teeth to galvanise the UN together and stipulate that if America wants to be still a member of the UN itself[General Assembly etc] and the Security Council, it must pay its way. President Trump is not playing according to international rules but then why is the world surprised and if America has sufficient intelligence, they should not vote him in for a second term. The election must have muscle to overthrow him so it can play and pay its way in the international community so UNESCO can positively contribute as it was intended. My email if you want to respond is

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