A Treaty of Waitangi roadshow starts a five-month, 35-town trip in Taupo this month.

Treaty 2 U will travel the North and South Islands in a large truck with an expanding trailer, using interactive media to demystify the Treaty and explain it to modern New Zealand.

It starts its journey outside the Lake Taupo Museum and Arts Gallery next Saturday.

The roadshow is backed by three organisations charged with keeping the country's historical treasures: the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Archives New Zealand and the National Library, supported by the Treaty information unit of the State Services Commission.

"The Treaty is an integral part of our history," says Seddon Bennington, Te Papa's chief executive.

"We as a nation are learning to understand how it has played, and continues to play, a part in our everyday lives."

The show includes replicas of the original nine Treaty documents, artificially aged by the same artist who worked on the papers featured in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (the originals are with Archives New Zealand in Wellington).

The show does not shy away from the sticky issues that have arisen, principally involving land, since the Treaty between the British Crown and Maori collected its first signatures on February 6, 1840, at Waitangi.

"It explains what is written in the documents and the crucial differences between the Maori and English versions," says Claudia Orange, Te Papa's director of history and Treaty expert.

"The exhibition follows the documents' journey during 1840 as more signatures were sought. It also looks at the varying expectations held by Maori and Pakeha groups."

Among the features of the exhibition is a video re-enactment of the discussions in Waitangi in February 1840 and a display which allows visitors to roll a cursor over Treaty signatures to find out about the signatory's iwi and hapu.

Roadshow dates

14-17: Taupo, Lake Taupo Museum and Art Gallery Story Place.
18-21: Cambridge (Waka Ama Nationals), Lake Karapiro.
22-25: New Plymouth, Puke Ariki.
26-27: Rotorua, Lakes Park.
28-29: Rotorua, A&P Show.

1-3: Wanganui, Majestic Square.
5: Lower Hutt, Te Whiti Park, Waiwhetu.
6: Porirua, Te Rauparaha Park (Festival of the Elements).
8-10: Masterton, to be confirmed.
11-13: Palmerston North, The Square.
17-20: Hamilton, Civic Plaza.
21-24: Tauranga, The Strand carpark.
25-27: Whakatane, Peace Park.

2-3: Gisborne, Te Poho-o-Rawhiri Marae.
4-5: Gisborne, Marina Park.
6: Wairoa, to be confirmed.
7-10: Napier, Marine Parade.
11-19: Wellington, Te Papa waterfront.
21-23: Nelson, to be confirmed.
24-25: Greymouth, to be confirmed.
28-April 1: Christchurch, Cathedral Square.

24-27: Auckland, to be confirmed.
28-29: West Auckland, Corbans (to be confirmed).
30-May 2: Manukau, to be confirmed.

3-4: North Shore, to be confirmed.
7-8: Whangarei, to be confirmed.
9-10: Kaitaia, to be confirmed.
11-12: Kaikohe, to be confirmed.
13-14: Waitangi, to be confirmed.