Human History


Human History is categorised as Taonga Māori, Pacific, Archaeology, History (Social and War), Applied Arts & Design, and World Collections.


Each of the collection areas has a curator responsible for the development of the collection, expertise in research within areas related to the collections, provision of access and engagement, and for the organisation of the collection. A team of collection managers and a loans officer work across the collection areas with the curators, ensuring loans, documentation, storage, arrangement and access are completed to a high standard. 


Jump to: Applied Arts and DesignArchaeologyTaonga MāoriPacificSocial HistoryWar HistoryWorld



Applied Arts and Design Collection


The focus of the Applied Arts & Design collection represents key makers, manufacturers, designs, designers and technical developments and styles primarily of Auckland, the Auckland region New Zealand as well as Western and Eastern cultures. The collection is used extensively as a research base by scholars and students. Our current priority is to strengthen our holding of key 21st-and mid-to-late-20th Century designers and makers. The Applied Arts and Design department receives acquisition funds from the Charles Disney Art Trust, and has a number of loan collections including the Mackelvie Trust Collection. 



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Handbag, 2016.7.18, © Auckland Museum CC BY

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Archaeology Collection


The main focus of the Archaeology collection is Māori material with a range of stylistic and material variation over time and space. Auckland Museum is the only collecting institution to have a curator Archaeology permanently on staff and, significantly, the only institution to curate archaeological assemblages containing not only formal artefacts but faunal bone and shell samples, stone flakes and botanical material from excavated sites in the Greater Auckland, Northland and Coromandel Peninsula regions. 

The collections are in high demand from academic researchers and students, and Pacific collections such as those from Samoa are also well used. Enquiries about other collections, particularly those from Egypt and Greece, are common from students and international scholars as we have material obtained through the museum’s relationship in the 1920s with the Egyptian Exploration Society and the British Museum.



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Vessel, 1932.559, 18718, © Auckland Museum CC BY

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Taonga Māori Collection

Pataka Maori Court © Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Within New Zealand, the Taonga Māori collection is of equal significance to that of the Te Papa Tongarewa. It is a cultural and research resource of the first order having the most comprehensive range of types and periods of material and is essential for the whole spectrum of studies in Māori art and material culture. 

This segment has a very high level of use by scholars, students, artists and Māori visitors, and dates from the early decades of the founding of the Museum. The focus to date has been on acquiring first quality “masterworks” from all tribal and geographic areas of New Zealand as well as representative material culture items.

Current priorities include the continued collections of aspects of contemporary Māori art, specifically those fields that derive from, relate to, resonate with, or bear reference to the traditional arts and existing collection strengths. 

This will be complemented by a proactive programme of Māori social history collecting that seeks to show Māori participation in New Zealand life throughout the 19th century and up to the present day.



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Pataka Māori Court © Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Pacific Collections

Clamshell, painted 'Matua'

The Pacific collections are diverse both geographically and in type of material, covering all the cultures of the Pacific, from West Papua, north east to Hawaii and south east to Easter Island. 

These collections are essential for display, research and cultural maintenance. For Pacific island-based groups and New Zealand-based Pacific communities the focus includes aspects of contemporary art, specifically those fields of contemporary Pacific art that derive from, relate to, resonate with, or bear reference to the traditional arts of these groups, or enhances existing collection strengths. Objects are collected for their intrinsic cultural or artistic importance, and also for their place within a temporal or geographic range by virtue of the relevance of their maker who may be anonymous.



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Clamshell, painted 'Matua', 2018.83.1, 2000.4537.69, © Auckland Museum CC BY

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Social History Collection

Coin (10 cents)

The Social History collection was established in 1992, by the amalgamation of the War collections (established 1920) and the Colonial History collection (established 1965), together with the Numismatic, Maritime History and Philately collections. The collection has two main strands, New Zealand at War, and Auckland – New Zealand social history. 

Both strands have considerable exhibition and display potential, and as their historical context and documentation is improved, their significance as a research and reference collection has also increased. While the focus of collecting is on Auckland, this does not exclude collections that relate to a wider geographical area, that explores connections between Auckland and its hinterland, and New Zealand and the wider world. 



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Pen, 1982.39, col.3120.1 © Auckland Museum CC BY

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War History Collection

musket, flintlock

The War History collection was established in 1920, following the end of World War I and spurred on by the decision to build a new museum as the War Memorial for the Auckland Provincial region. Currently the collection addresses four major themes: the experiences of war, the impact of war, remembering war, and the materiality of war. It includes a significant medal collection, a wide range of swords and firearms as well as material culture related to New Zealander’s military service.



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Musket, flintlock, W1419, 10954,, © Auckland Museum CC BY

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World Collection


The World (Foreign Ethnology) collection is diverse, the largest and most significant of its type in the country. The continued development of this collection enables the presentation and representation of a well-balanced range of arts and artefacts of non-Western, and non-Pacific and Māori cultures, and it is an important collection for display and comparative research. With increasing numbers of migrant groups to New Zealand – and specifically to Auckland – it is important that Auckland Museum is able to reflect the changing cultural landscape and the creativity in the spaces between these new communities.



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Basket, 47722, B88, 1975.90, © Auckland Museum CC BY

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