Key Points:

The helmet that took "plenty of whacks" during the 1981 Springbok tour has been offered to Te Papa by veteran protester John Minto.

Mr Minto has offered his old fibreglass bike helmet, a Nelson Mandela mug, T-shirts and HART - Halt All Racist Tours - placard to the national museum in Wellington.

Mr Minto's girlfriend bought the helmet for him after the infamous scenes of police using their batons against protesters in Wellington's Molesworth St.

"It was a cheap way of protecting myself. It doesn't have any padding, just a foam strip down the middle.

"It got plenty of whacks but thank God it held together," Mr Minto said.

He recalls the tubes of cardboard worn underneath clothes as body armour and folded newspapers up his arms. "Perhaps they added to the escalation but the helmets and shields came after Molesworth St," Mr Minto said.

He said he still gets about two calls or emails every week from documentary makers and students wanting to interview him.

His own son, now in Year 11, wants to interview him for a school project and he has just given a talk to the school's history class.

"For a lot of people, especially students today, they find it hard to comprehend the intensity of the public divide," Mr Minto said.

Many of the people who supported the 1981 Springbok tour had since thanked him for protesting.

"I wouldn't have had a negative comment in 10 years," Mr Minto said.

Te Papa history curator Stephanie Gibson said she hoped Mr Minto's helmet would form a part of an exhibition on key points in New Zealand 20th century history.

She said the exhibition was still in the planning stages but was likely to include both sides of the debate surrounding the 1981 Springbok tour.

"It's a lovely object for us because it looks at a quirky response to a dangerous situation. He's out there, it's obviously going to get violent and a loved one gets him this helmet. Is it going to protect his brain? I don't know," Ms Gibson said.

Objects from the 1981 tour hit the headlines three years ago when former MP Ross Meurant sold his aluminium baton for $20,000 to a buyer in South Africa in 2005. Mr Meurant was a leader of the police Red Squad that had many violent clashes with protesters.