Auckland Museum's curator of manuscripts Nina Finigan reveals the building's inner workings.
Pre-lockdown I counted myself as a visitor to Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira five days a week. Working at a place like this is a huge privilege and I still feel the same excitement as a visitor when I come to the office.
For me, the museum's beating heart is its collections. Spanning natural sciences, social and cultural history, Māori and Pacific taonga, photographs, manuscripts and specimens. Our exhibitions are equally diverse, ranging from the history of Auckland to the natural environment.
Right now, visitors must absolutely get to the Love & Loss exhibition. This is my exhibition and I'm really proud of it. It's quite different to what the museum usually offers. It explores the emotional power of the written word and the sacred place letters, messages and texts hold in our lives.
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Another must-see is Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland. This beautiful exhibition opened earlier this year and asks who are we as Aucklanders? It's rich in objects and stories as well as interactive and digital experiences.
If you only have time to visit one gallery at the museum, make it He Taonga Māori - Māori Court. The space has a special wairua and the taonga held within are astounding. This includes Hotonui, the meeting house that was originally a wedding gift from Ngāti Awa in the eastern Bay of Plenty to Ngāti Maru in Thames.
Don't miss the newly refurbished Southern Atrium, now called Te Ao Marama, meaning the Realm of Being and Light. This space has been reconceptualised and refurbished with tikanga (Māori customs and traditional values) in mind. Renovations have also fully revealed the Talitali 'Au Moana, the giant hanging structure in the middle of the atrium. Known in the museum as "the bowl", the structure is based on a Fijian kava bowl and holds the museum's classrooms and auditorium.
Something I'm very excited about is the redevelopment of our natural sciences galleries. The current exhibitions have been on the floor for many years and they're getting a total overhaul, so watch this space.
I hope people leave our museum feeling affected in some way. Museums are places of learning and reflection - we can't dictate how people experience it, as we all bring our own subjectivities to bear on what we see, but I think transformation, however small, is central.
Curated by Nina Finigan, Love & Loss is a free, must-see exhibition. On now until February 2022 at Auckland Museum. Pick up the accompanying book, Archives of Emotion from the museum shop.
Check alert level restrictions, vaccine requirements and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz