The museum in question is the Auckland War Memorial Museum and if anyone was here yesterday, you may remember that Greg at Queen Street’s Columbus Coffee recommended a visit.
I popped into the coffee shop for breakfast this morning – the food really was worth a second visit – and received a nice welcome.
“Did you get a chance to visit the museum?” asked Greg.
That was my plan for today, after coffee with a friend and the spotting of some more Karangahape Road street art.
There were some more excellent pieces off the main road…
Quite often the best stuff is hidden away.
I finally headed off to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The building is in the centre of beautiful green parkland and by early afternoon was quietly busy with joggers, walkers and cricketers.
The Museum’s name, frankly, does it a disservice.
Even with Greg’s enthusiastic description I wasn’t expecting such an interesting and varied museum.
As the ticket fee came in at 20 NZD (which is something of a shock after Vietnam prices) I thought to myself: “This had better be good”.
Over three hours later, I finally headed out of the museum.
There is a lot to see there – the ground floor is focused on Maori history, the first on natural history and the third on New Zealand’s war history.
It’s an eclectic mix of exhibits and it’s a great introduction to New Zealand history.
The Maori exhibits focused on the Maori way of life and how they had originally travelled from Southeast Asia to New Zealand.
The idea of setting sail for thousands of miles on the Southern oceans in tiny boats, several of which are displayed at the museum, is an awe-inspiring one.
I also learned about Captain Cook’s navigator, someone I knew nothing about, even after visiting the Captain Cook Experience just outside Middlesborough (UK) when I was a child.
Tupaia was from Tahiti and joined Cook on his ship the Endeavour as he explored New Zealand and Australia.
Tupaia was a highly respected leader of his people and an excellent navigator. He also acted as a diplomat and prevented the English from landing themselves in trouble through misunderstandings.
The ship’s scientist, on seeing Tupaia’s welcome at various villages wrote: We never realised he was so important.
Tupaia died in December 1770 from an illness contracted when Endeavour was docked in Batavia for repairs ahead of its return journey to England.
Growing up, I only ever heard about Captain Cook – you’d almost think he explored single handedly. The crew are barely mentioned and learning about Tupaia today added a whole new insight into the exploration story.
The museum’s war memorial on the top floor is very moving and the exhibitions also chart New Zealand’s involvement in World Wars One and Two, as well as the wars (of conquest) between the settlers and the Maoris in the 19th Century.
One of the facts that shocked me, growing up in with an English narrative about “standing alone” during the war was this: approximately 18,000 New Zealanders were killed fighting in World War Two and around 40,000 injured.
The country had sent approximately 100,000 men and women.
Back on the first floor is a highly entertaining and informative exhibition about volcanoes.
As well as facts and figures about volcanoes, how many ways you can be killed by a volcano, the fact that Auckland is built on volcanoes, there’s a creation of what it would be like to be in an eruption.
It doesn’t have the same impact as Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast but the museum is going for the same vibe.
News broadcasts report the increased likelihood of an imitation eruption and sitting in a small apartment set, you can experience what it would be like as the power goes out, the ground quakes and the ash covers the city.
It’s all good fun.
I think the two small French children sought reassurance from their parents while it was happening.
I also learned about the monitoring systems that are in place for the early eruption warning. What entertained me most was the fact that someone had put a small toy dinosaur near one of the monitoring cameras at White Island.
When word got out, the camera website views went through the roof.
I had a look for myself, here but I couldn’t see him.
Nevermind, Dino has his own Facebook page now.
The other great point about the Museum is that from the first floor, you get a pretty good view of Auckland’s bay.
Frankly, it’s worth visiting just for that with everything else an added bonus and with the Botanic Winter Gardens in the grounds, it was very easy to spend the best part of the day here.