Lonely Planet Writer

Museum of Waitangi announced as joint winner of New Zealand's ‘Best Museum Project’

The new Museum of Waitangi, Te Kōngahu, was announced as a joint winner in the Best Museum Project category in the 2016 New Zealand Museum Awards. The Museum of Waitangi is part of a major programme of development at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds one of NZ’s most important historic sites. The project cost NZ$14m and took just over 12 months to complete. It opened its doors to the public on 7 February this year.

Maori carvings at Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Maori carvings at Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Image by Sids1 / CC BY 2.0

The museum ground floor has a permanent exhibition Ko Waitangi Tēnei –

This is Waitangi which tells the story of the importance of the Waitangi in NZ though its significant treasures, some representing the personal and political exchangesbetween Māori leaders and the British Crown. Many of these were scattered throughout New Zealand and around the world for more than 60 years.

The Waitangi National Trust wanted the museum to have a traditional feel yet still deliver its story through cutting edge technology like you’d find at other major museums. The second floor has space for temporary exhibition programmes, from working with local artists, to housing nationally significant objects only available for short-term loan.

Boat carving at Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Boat carving at Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Image by Steve Shattuck / CC BY-SA 2.0

The museum’ exterior features masonry by artist Carin Wilson. The stonework depicts a native forest landscape, putting the trees that were present before construction of the new museum back onto the site. If you look closely you can see figures behind some of the trees. These represent the ancestors that once walked the lands. Seven bronze pou (boundary markers) at the entranceway to the museum (also designed by Carin Wilson) symbolise seven core values – atanoho, kāinga, taonga, rangatiratanga, whakapono, rongo, and whenua. The new museum adds to the overall Waitangi experience – complementing the existing heritage buildings and attractions.