Museum of New Zealand unveils plans for new nature zone

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is building an exciting new nature and environment zone, opening in the museum early 2019. Free to visitors, the $11 million zone will replace the existing nature exhibitions which have been in the museum since it opened in 1998.

The spaces closing for construction after Easter 2018 include Mountains to Sea, home of the Colossal Squid, Awesome Forces with the Edgecumbe earthquake house, and the NatureSpace children’s play area on Level 2.

Visitors will be able to see rare specimens and exciting new interactive experiences when the new nature zone opens. And few favourites will be back too – including the celebrity squid, and a revamped earthquake house with a new interactive story about recent seismic shifts in Aotearoa.

The redevelopment of the nature zone follows the opening of Toi Art, Te Papa’s new art gallery and interactive family spaces on Levels 4 and 5, in March 2018 – the biggest change to Te Papa since it opened.

Dr Dean Peterson, Head of Science at Te Papa, says it’s time to create bold new exhibitions to reflect the changing world.

“It’s going to be a huge space, with lots of chances to see some of the rarest specimens from the collection, like real huia feathers, a mummified moa foot, beaked whale skulls and fragile plants collected on Captain Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand,” says Dr Peterson.

“There will be plenty of opportunities to get involved in hands-on activities, and to delve deeper using digital tools.”

“We’re exploring so many great ideas to show the wonders of our environment – perhaps you could dance like an albatross, smell a kākāpō, or test your intelligence against a kea.”

“Whatever ideas we choose, there’ll be something for people of all ages, and plenty of ways to get involved in conversations about the future of our planet,” says Dr Peterson.

The new exhibitions will explore what’s weird and wonderful about our land and wildlife, what forces underlie the land’s formation, and what environmental challenges are most on New Zealanders’ minds today.

Research about nature and human impact on the environment has changed substantially over the past two decades,” says Dr Peterson. “These new exhibitions tackle the tough challenges facing us today, and tell more of Aotearoa New Zealand’s stories.”

Te Papa is developing the new exhibitions with the science community, iwi, environmental organisations, community groups, universities, Crown Research Institutes, and Māori scholars.

“It’s taking a community to build this zone,” says Dr Peterson. “We’re looking at how things are explained through mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) alongside science. The research is grounded in so many different perspectives and areas of expertise.”

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