Exhibition inspires new understanding

Exhibition inspires new understanding
Students from Mount Cook School view a priceless moa egg in Te Taiao Nature.

A vision born years ago to meld matauranga (Maori knowledge) with science, supported by cutting-edge interactive technologies, has come to spectacular life in Te Papa’s permanent new exhibition zone, Te Taiao Nature
.For Raewyn Cummings, Head of Exhibition Delivery, and Frith Williams, Head of Experience Design and Content, the journey has culminated in an exhibition they are both tremendously proud to have been part of creating.
“As a bicultural museum, we always look at the world from diverse perspectives.
“With these new exhibitions, we wanted to explore Maori knowledge in a more contemporary way, and highlight how it can guide us to address the environmental challenges facing our whenua and moana – how it can help us care for the natural world,” says Frith.
In defining the principles that would frame the exhibition, the museum gathered the expertise and wisdom of many external collaborators.
“We held workshops with matauranga experts and scientists alike,” Raewyn explains, “and brought on various other partners too – in construction, digital media, and numerous other areas.”
Key to creating such an ambitious, leading-edge exhibition was carefully staging its development, and ensuring clear milestones.
“It was a very dynamic and collaborative process, and my main role was to see that these important stages occurred in a timely way. It’s fair to say we were learning all the way through, as the exhibition took form.”
When asked about the exhibition elements that have really enthralled the 300,000 visitors who have experienced Te Taiao Nature in its first four and a half months, Raewyn says that Te Kohanga, The Nest, has proved a highlight.
Constructed from woven, recycled wood, the 70sqm, 4-metre-high nest surrounds visitors in bird song and stunning imagery
It asks visitors to anticipate which birds are thriving, surviving, or extinct, and introduces them to the wider environmental challenges facing the country today.

Exhibition inspires new understanding
Visitors with the Mauri activator, a giant interactive screen powered by the life-force or mauri of visitors – by placing their hands on a carved wooden touchstone, visitors can add life to the landscape.

At the centre sits a priceless moa egg, which has never been displayed before. Raewyn says that one challenge was to find the balance between using recycled or sustainable materials and ensuring the durability of the exhibits for many years to come.
Te Taiao Nature encourages visitors to think about their own relationship to, and impact on, Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique natural world.
For those steering the exhibition’s development, it was important to provide diverse ways of exploring key concepts, and digital technologies were part of that.
A highlight for Frith is Te Au, The Current. “It’s a forum for visitors to share what they think about the environmental challenges facing us,” she says.
“On a large-scale projection, it shows them where their views sit in relation to other people’s perspectives, and it doesn’t stop there.”
“We lodge that information with data.govt.nz, an open database that anyone can tap into to track changes in attitude over time,” says Frith. “Most exhibitions present research, but The Cur-rent is also research in action.”
The Climate Converter is another outstanding interactive experience. An immersive digital world, it challenges visitors to work together to combat climate change and create a carbon-zero Aotearoa New Zealand.
Two highlights from Te Papa’s original nature exhibition also appear among the 200 collection items spread across the 1400sqm exhibition space.
“We knew the Earthquake House and colossal squid were firm favourites, so these have been revamped and enhanced,” says Raewyn.
Throughout the development of Te Taiao Nature, the emphasis was on creating a multi-sensory experience that would be educational and fun.
The formula has worked in terms of visitor numbers, which have surpassed all expectations, and impact. “We carry out surveys to gather feedback from visitors on how powerfully the experiences have impacted on them.
“Some have committed to eating less meat, planting trees, even simple things like drinking from reusable coffee cups,” Frith explains.
Visitors have also welcomed the opportunities to enrich their understanding of tereo Maori, and feedback from teachers is that students have been captivated by the immersive, highly interactive nature of the exhibition.
The whole space has been thoughtfully designed to cater for visitors with different abilities and disabilities. For example, quiet lounges with natural light provide time out from the busier spaces, and a more restful, intimate experience.
There has also been interest from museums around the country and world, particularly on the interweaving of matauranga and science, and the use of diverse technologies to create spectacular, meaningful experiences for visitors.
For both Raewyn and Frith, the journey of creating the exhibition has been hugely satisfying.
“You become such a part of its creation. It’s just wonderful to wander around the space now and see how it’s inspiring so many people, and to think about the huge number of skilled, passionate, creative people who’ve brought it to life. It’s been a huge privilege.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

Related Posts