Te Papa's 20th birthday plans

By Regan Paranihi

Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is celebrating its 20th birthday today, the 14th of February, with plans for major changes to the national museum.

By the day of its 20th anniversary, Te Papa will have had almost 30 million visitors, discovered more than 400 new species, hosted more than 3,000 pōwhiri, and rocked visitors with more than 1.3 million shares of its famous earthquake house.

At midday 20 years ago exactly, led by yachtsman Sir Peter Blake, thousands gathered to be the first to visit the high profile new building. Te Papa was a radical concept  -  a bicultural museum, which incorporated both the previous national museum and national art collections.

All eyes were on Te Papa. It was the biggest ever investment in New Zealand culture and heritage and one of the 90s’ biggest museum projects globally.

Chief Executive Geraint Martin says, "Museums aren't cupboards full of old stuff, they're a mirror held up to society."  

He says in March the museum will open a new art gallery, Toi Art, the biggest change since the opening 20 years ago.

The $8.4 million space will display works that have never been shown at Te Papa before. And from Easter this year Te Papa will begin work on a new nature and environment area, which will open next year.

Te Papa's Kaihautū (Māori co-leader) Dr. Arapata Hakiwai  says, "Te Papa is about all the complexities of living together in Aotearoa, but one word that comes up whenever you mention Te Papa is 'fun'."

Te Papa will mark its birthday with a special evening concert, and special free tours and film screenings. There will also be a radio and podcast series, "Ours", highlighting twenty objects from Te Papa's collections. It will air weekly on RNZ's Jesse Mulligan show.  In each episode, a New Zealander, from the Prime Minister to a nine-year-old squid fan, share their passion for a favorite Te Papa object.