About our Collection


Our Collections and Research team builds and cares for the Museum's collections and undertakes research related to these collections to contribute to the creation of new knowledge and to provide rich content for our diverse Museum audiences. Our Museum collections sit within four broad areas:


Natural Sciences: botany, entomology, land vertebrates, marine, geology, palaeontology

Human History: Taonga Māori, Pacific, archaeology, social history, war history, applied arts & design, world collections (foreign ethnology)

Documentary Heritage: manuscripts and archives, maps, pictorial, ephemera, books and publications, serials, newspapers.

Online Cenotaph: An online repository for the official and personal stories of New Zealanders' service in international conflict.


The work of the Collections and Research team can be divided into five key areas:

Collection DevelopmentCollection Management and CareResearchEnquiryPublic Engagement


Collection Development

Strategic stewardship of the collections is the primary responsibility of curators, who shape and drive the strategic development of the collections in support of the Museum’s purpose. Our curatorial team do this through relationships with collectors and donors, targeted acquisitions through purchase and fieldwork, and by enhancing the content of existing collections. Our processes also ensure that the acquisition backlog is not added to.

This work is underpinned by the Collection Development Plan at a strategic level and at a tactical level, by the annual collecting plans for each collecting area. A robust acquisition approval process includes consideration of storage, conservation requirements, interpretive value, significance, importance for He Korahi Māori and activation of Teu Le Vā. This is overseen by the Collection Development Committee to ensure whole-of-life costs and resource requirements are assessed prior to items being included in the collection.

An extensive programme of Collections Access and Readiness Projects have been funded in order to reduce historical collection backlogs of objects and complete their processing, record enrichment and digitisation.

The Collection Development Plan 2017 sets the Museum’s collection priorities for the next five to ten years. The priorities are to support research, community access, learning, exhibitions, gallery renewal and public programmes that can be delivered onsite, offsite and online. The plan confirms the criteria for both acquisition and disposal of objects, given the Museum’s limited resources.

Collection Management and Care

The primary goal of the collection managers and the Collection Care team is to provide vital care and expert advice to protect tangible and intangible heritage. The delivery of core preventive conservation and remedial treatments ensures both the stability and accessibility of the collections. We do this by connecting our specialist conservation expertise and collection management skills, onsite and offsite, to international best practice standard.

The Collection Care team’s accountabilities in delivery of the broader Collections and Research priorities are achieved through pre-emptive risk management. The ten agents of deterioration are the platform from which Collection Care undertakes key preventive conservation treatments and collection management activities. We do this collaboratively with our colleagues and other stakeholders. Caring for taonga and the stories they tell is central in all our responses. Collection Managers and the Collection Care team’s focus on Storage Optimisation and enhancing access to collections will ensure sustainability, relevance and connectedness to Aucklanders and the world.


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Collections-based research is the link – the transformative process – that interprets our collections for the Museum’s diverse audiences, providing rich content for our exhibitions, digital media and public programmes.

The research outputs produced by our team make a vital contribution to national and international understanding in each of our areas of curatorial expertise. As outlined in our Research Strategy, our research contributions also contribute to the profile of Auckland Museum, helping to grow its reputation as an institution that undertakes academic research and supports research into its collections for the creation of new knowledge.

Recent research expeditions inform academic studies and Museum storytelling and build upon Auckland Museum's 160-year legacy of research, scholarship and innovation.

Our team carries out original research within a variety of specialist areas and publishes the results of this research widely. Much of this research is executed in collaboration with other institutions, which aids sustainability and brings together the best range of specialist expertise for each research project.

The Museum also supports external researchers to shine a light on the collections and create new knowledge through original research, by providing scholarships, internships and collection- specific research grants.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the collections and research activities. The collections both stimulate lines of enquiry and provide the evidence to answer broader societal and environmental questions.


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The Museum’s vision for Subject Enquiry @AM is to be an integral part of the Auckland Museum experience, with visitors being respected partners in every interaction. We aspire to a smart, informed and timely enquiry response across the Visitor Experience, and Collections and Research. Underpinning customer principles are that we welcome questions, and visitors can expect a fit-for-purpose experience with quality interactions at key touch points. Enquirers can check in on the progress of their enquiries, which are work-flowed seamlessly to the appropriate specialist for a response using the RefTracker system.

Collections and Research will support the updating and embedding of earlier work on Subject Enquiry @AM into the Gallery Renewal programme by the Public Experience directorate.


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Public Engagement

All staff members in the directorate support engagement with the collections by communicating with diverse audiences including specialists and the broader community through the Museum’s public programmes, exhibitions, online services, social and other media. Audiences include iwi, whānau, hapū, Pacific communities, researchers, writers, historians, the media, public, students and the professional communities of many disciplines.

This includes facilitating outward loans to other museums and exhibition or research agencies, and communicating the results of research through publications, conferences and presentations and providing image orders to customers internationally.

Collections and Research Staff

Collections and Research Staff

We are curators, collection managers, conservators, technicians, photographers, digital and open data specialists, librarians, museum professionals, archaeologists, historians, marine biologists, social anthropologists, map, photographic and pictorial specialists, indigenous makers and artists, systems specialists, customer service specialists, research associates, scientists and managers.

Our staff: 110 full time equivalent (FTE), including 61 fixed term and project FTE

Our volunteers: 7,800 volunteer hours, equivalent to 4 FTE, contributed per annum