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The A to Z of Te Taiao Nature

By Frances 6 May 2019

Te Papa’s brand-new natural zone, Te Taiao Nature, features interactive experiences, rare collection items and the return of some of your favourite from Te Papa’s first nature exhibition. Here’s the A to Z guide with everything you need to know before you visit.


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A is for Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Taiao Nature is a bold and immersive journey through the natural world of Aotearoa New Zealand, combining cutting-edge science with mātauranga Māori.

B is for biggest and brand new. Te Taiao Nature is the biggest exhibition changeover since the museum opened 21 years ago. Te Papa Chief Executive Geraint Martin says, “This is a brand-new experience, unlike anything else in the world, and one that every New Zealander is going to want to see for themselves.”

C is for the colossal squid (Te Wheke Nui). The beloved favourite of all children and some grown-ups and the only complete colossal squid on display in the world is back in all of its slightly gross but oh-so fascinating glory. See it and squeal.


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D is for Dominion Museum. The Dominion Museum is what Te Papa was called way back when the museum was housed in the Dominion Museum Building beside Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and in 1940 was responsible for acquiring one of the four moa eggs on rotating display in Te Taiao Nature.

E is for earthquake house. Along with everyone’s favourite oversized squid, old favourite earthquake house is back and shakier than ever. Te Papa worked closely with EQC to bring visitors the latest understanding of earthquakes, their impacts and how to stay safe (hold, drop and cover everyone).

F is for free of charge. Yusss.

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Pioneering NZ dinosaur fossil finder Joan Wiffen
Photo credit: Wendy St George. Courtesy of GNS Science.

G is for GNS. Te Papa teamed up with GNS Science to get their geological expertise on the huge forces that continue to shape our (some would say overly) active islands. GNS has generously loaned some objects for the exhibition, including pioneering Kiwi female fossil hunter, Joan Wiffen's first dinosaur fossil. 

H is for how to say it. Te Taiao is pronounced ‘teh tie-ow’.

I is for interactive. In true Te Papa style, Te Taiao Nature features dozens of brand-new interactive experiences, from creating your own tsunami to weighing in against a giant moa. Hours of fun.

J is for Jim Eyles. Jim the fossicking local schoolboy who discovered one of Te Papa’s moa eggs in 1939. Jim cracked the egg with his spade when he dug it up, but the egg safely made its way safely into Te Papa’s collection.

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One of Te Papa's four moa eggs on display in Te Taiao Nature
Photo credit: Jack Fisher, Te Papa

K is for kaitiaki. We’re all kaitiaki (guardians) of the environment and Te Papa wants us to leave the exhibition feeling pumped and positive about how we can help make a positive change (on that note, don’t forget to bring along your reusable drink bottle and coffee cup to Te Papa).

L is for life force (mauri). Te Taiao Nature explores the natural world using the concepts of mātauranga Māori. Mauri is an energy which binds and animates all things in the physical world. Without mauri, mana cannot flow into a person or object.

M is for moa egg. There are only 36 known mostly intact moa eggs in the world and lucky for us, Te Papa has four of these in its collection, including a moa egg dating at least 700 years. The four eggs will be alternating display in Te Taiao Nature, so that they don’t wear out.

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A 70-square-metre, 4-metre-high ‘nest’ woven together from recycled materials

N is for nest. At the heart of Te Taiao Nature is a 70-square-metre, 4-metre-high ‘nest’ woven together from recycled materials including floorboards from the previous nature exhibition. Inside the nest you’ll be surrounded by amazing bird song. Spoiler alert: this is also where you’ll find the moa egg.

O is for old. The oldest specimen on display is a giant ammonite – a shelled relative of squid and is 140 million years old.

P is for permanent. Te Taiao Nature will be sticking around for a while which is lucky because it’s a huge exhibition with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, so you’re going to want to go back again and again.

Q is for quiet (or quiet-ish) contemplation. Te Taiao Nature is a chance for some quiet contemplation on nature and the world we live in. Chill out in one of the exhibition’s break-out zones and relax on the comfy chairs and gaze out at the views over Bush City, Te Papa’s lush, living, outdoor exhibition.

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Te Papa

R is for Rūaumoko. When you step foot into Te Taiao Nature you enter the realm of Rūaumoko, the god of volcanoes and earthquakes. Rūaumoko is the youngest son of Ranginui (the Sky father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth mother) (commonly called Rangi and Papa).

S is for school holidays sorted. There’ll be a collective exhale of relief from parents around the Wellington region that Te Papa’s nature exhibition is open – it’s just the thing to keep children and adults entertained throughout the school holidays.

T is for tāonga. Te Taiao Nature will feature over 1,200 collection items from Te Papa’s collections, ranging from the large (moa egg) to the small (rifleman’s egg), the old (giant ammonite specimen) to the newly taxidermised birds, including an impressive mating pair of albatross. 

U is for unique. Let’s face it, New Zealand’s got some pretty weird wildlife ranging from the gigantic to the flightless. Te Taiao Nature is a chance to learn about how Zealandia split from Gondwana and how this isolation has made our plants and animals so unusual.

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Peter Wells from Wildmount Taxidermy created lots of new display specimens for Te Taiao Nature

V is for visitors. Te Papa has had over 30 million visits since it opened in 1998. Check out Te Taiao Nature and keep on adding to the visitor tally.  

W is for world-leading. Named by TripAdvisor in 2018 as one top of their top 25 museums in the world, Te Taiao Nature carries on Te Papa’s reputation for creating world-leading, game-changing exhibitions and museum experience.

X is for Xenicus gilviventris. It's the genus of the native rock wren specimen on display on Te Taiao Nature's endemic wall (it's also for 'x-tremely' relieved - how we felt when we finally found something beginning with 'x'.)  

Y is for yonks. 140 million years is age of the oldest specimen on display: (giant ammonite – shelled relative of squid)

Z is for zone. Te Taiao Nature is a 1,400-square-metre zone that is 9 metres high at the highest point.

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