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(Te Papa Whakahiku)

The Museum was founded 1852 as Auckland Museum, in a two room cottage on Grafton Road. It moved the Provincial Council building in 1867, and the Post Office building in 1870. Custom-built premises were constructed in Princes Street in 1876.

After the First World War, funds were collected from the public for a new building, and the Museum was reopened as the Auckland War Memorial Museum at its present site on the Auckland Domain in 28th November 1929, as a mark of respect to the many New Zealanders who died in World War One. The classical Greek style of the architecture (based on the Pantheon) is representative of the valour of New Zealand soldiers, and the classical tragedy of such battles as Gallipoli. The Cenotaph in front of the Museum is based on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Whitehall, London, but as the architects could not afford to purchase the blueprints for that structure, they drew up their design based on newsreels of the Tomb. In 1960, the Museum was extended to house memorials to the 4702 war dead of the Auckland region in World War Two. In 1994 a 5 year, NZ$43 million refurbishment plan began to preserve and restore the museum building and open up more space for displays and collections.

The second stage of the refurbishment project has begun, which will redevelop the south courtyard (adding more floor space), add underground car parking and a revolving restaurant on top of the museum. This plan has come under attack from war veterans, who argue that the new management is trying to make as much money as possible from the museum, rather than honour the dead. They point out that alcohol cannot be served at the restaurant as the museum is on consecrated ground.

The top floor is based around the Roll of Honour, the names of New Zealanders from the Auckland region who died serving their country in World Wars One and Two, Korea, Vietnam, Malaya and other conflicts. It also includes exhibits on New Zealand at War and the Auckland region since the 19th century.

The first floor is devoted to Natural History, and includes exhibits on New Zealand plants and animals, New Zealand sea-life and the geology of New Zealand. It also is home to Weird and Wonderful and Treasures and Tales, two child orientated exhibits. If you come on a Saturday, you may find a bored Mikkel lurking thereabouts, who will be happy to show you the way to the toilet or build a tower with you, as they seem to be his only jobs.

The ground floor is mainly devoted to Maori, Polynesian and New Zealand culture exhibits, art exhibits, and temporary exhibits. The Museum shop and café are also located on this floor. Auckland Museum is open every day except Christmas Day. Regular Museum hours are 10am to 5pm. On the 25th of April, a dawn service is held in memory of the dead, and the museum does not open until 12pm.

Entry is by donation, with NZ$5 recommended for adults. No donation is requested for children or senior citizens. The Museum is located in the Auckland Domain. There are regular buses to the museum from Queen Street in the City Centre (be across from the side the Sky Tower is on and find a bus stop.

Perched atop a hill in Auckland Domain, the Museum commands a spectacular view of Rangitoto Island, the Hauraki Gulf. Turn 90 degrees, and you are greeted with another impressive view of Auckland City, the Sky Tower and the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The Auckland Domain, a large city park surrounds the Museum, and houses Botanical Gardens, a Garden for the Blind and sports fields.

Exhibits

  • Pacific Pathways:
    Ground Floor
    This exhibit houses displays on Pacific cultural, and includes the popular Maori Cultural show.
  • New Zealand Social History:
    First Floor
    The exhibit includes a reconstruction of 19th century Auckland and information on life in Auckland over the past 100 years.
  • New Zealand Natural History:
    First Floor
    Includes displays on New Zealand's flora and fauna and explains how they are unique to New Zealand.
  • New Zealand at War
    Second Floor
    This includes the Roll of Honour and walkthroughs describing the two World Wars and other conflicts that New Zealand has participated in.
  • Decorative Arts
    Ground Floor
    Home to contemporary and historic ceramics, glass, metalwork, furniture, textiles and jewellery.
  • Discovery Centres
    First Floor
    The Centres cater for children, with interactive exhibits, displays and activities.
  • Information Centres
    Second Floor
    Includes archives and information about New Zealand and wars New Zealand has been involved in.
  • and Temporary Exhibits...
    Currently (30/12/01):
    Music in the Museum
    Vodafone Body Art
    Snap Happy - Pictorial Gallery
    Glorified Scales

I recommend the Museum to any vistors to Auckland. Even if you don't like the exhibits, the Roll of Honour is beautifully decorated, and it is quite a humbling experience to see rows upon rows of names on the wall. All who died for some cause they probably barely understood. Every so often a name has a poppy next to them. Means some family member still comes regularly to be with their loved one.


www.akmuseum.org.nz for more information

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