Who better to advise you on some of the best things to see at the Museum than the very people who know our displays most intimately?

We asked our curators what Collection items they're most excited to see again when the Museum reopens, to help you prepare the perfect must-see list.

Kahutoi Te Kanawa

Curator, Pou Arahi

Kahutoi Te Kanawa

The objects I would like to see are the three Manu by artist Mike Crawford in the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland display, because they represent the three main iwi: Ngāti Whātua, Waikato/Tainui and Ngāti Pāoa who we work with closely. They hold a prestigious place and illuminate prestige and elegance. Just looking through the colourful glass work shows the beauty and strength of their gracefulness and mana of such iconic native birds.

For me, they also represent tangata whenua, the people of these lands and natural ways of life that is synonymous to Te Ao Tawhito, the old world. They are replicated in a contemporary sleek and fashionable design of Te Ao Mārama, the new world. I liken this to the changes that are yet to evolve, and the futuristic tasks and projects we are about to endure, that reflects the past, present and future of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The three Manu at the entrance of Tāmaki Herenga Waka Stories of Auckland.

Gail Romano

Associate Curator, History

Gail Romano

One of my favourite objects on display is small and tucked away in a space that is easy to walk past without seeing. It’s a mother-of-pearl and silver crucifix which was retrieved by a British soldier from the ruins of a shelled abbey in the vicinity of Ypres / Messines in West Flanders, sometime between August & November 1914 during the first fierce struggles for control of Belgium. 

The crucifix is a reminder that those who are thrust into the horror of battle don't automatically lose their own values and empathy for the experience of others. Many found some solace and relief in small acts of kindness and humaneness. 

Although we cannot know what was in the mind of the soldier who picked up this crucifix in its leather pouch, noticing and saving a small devotional object that otherwise would be lost in a sea of devastation, even though it would never be reunited with its owner, could be an example of such compassion.

The crucifix can be found in a niche in the wall of the walk-through western front trench in the Scars on the Heart First World War gallery on Level 2.

Crucifix; AWMM 1982.135, W2604.

Dr Andrea Low

Associate Curator, Contemporary World

Dr Andrea Low

Whenever I feel like the walls are closing in on me in my office I like to walk through the Pacific collections in the Pacific Lifeways and Masterpieces Galleries. One of the displays I return to time and again is the textiles wall in Masterpieces, in particular a taakai from Sikaiana.

Sikaiana is an atoll that has been a part of the Solomon Islands since 1897 and lies 200 km to the west of Malaita. Weaving was done by women using back strap looms called mea tau, a process which is currently undergoing a revival in Sikaiana. Made from fibre extracted from hau the resulting taakai (belt-like garments) were once worn by women, especially after child birth, firmly wrapped around the body.

This taakai was acquired by the museum in 1930 and from the gathering and processing of materials to the completed garment, is an awe inspiring work of community and individual creativity.

Taakai (woven garment); AWMM 1930.186, 4980.

John Early

Curator, Entomology

John Early

I love the pair of these Mercury Islands tusked wētā displayed in Te Ao Tūroa, or the Māori natural history gallery. 

They are the rarest and most endangered wētā species in Aotearoa. Males have these spectacular tusks on their jaws and use them to fight in territorial disputes. For such a large insect (length 7-9cm), they were only discovered in 1970 on one of the small islands of the Mercury group off the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.

On the verge of extinction, one male and two females were brought to Auckland for a captive breeding programme. This programme has allowed their descendants to be liberated on other islands in the Mercury group, as well as Cuvier Island. This pair played their part in a successful conservation programme and died of old age after having made babies.

Mercury Island tusked wētā (Motuweta isolata); AWMM AMNZ24821, AMNZ24822.

Nina Finigan

Curator, Manuscripts

Nina Finigan

When I get back in that space I’m looking forward to seeing Koe higoa haaku Hiapo again - a collaborative work by Niuean-New Zealand makers - hiapo artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe and poet Dr Jess Pasisi. It is currently on display in our Love & Loss exhibition.

This beauteous work consists of 10 pieces of beaten barkcloth (hiapo) each inscribed with the words of a poem. It’s an incredible, layered work which reflects a deep longing for language, culture and home. It also raises important questions about colonisation, cultural loss and revitalisation and the role museums play in this dynamic.

You can read more about the work and its makers here, and listen to the poem read by Pasisi here.

Koe higoa haaku Hiapo (2020) by Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Jessica Pasisi; AWMM GN434.5 HIG.

Dr Matt Rayner

Curator, Land Vertebrates

Dr Matt Rayner

When I get back in the office, I am looking forward to hanging out with our bird bone collection! This is not as weird as you might think as bird bones are very cool for a number of reasons. First, they are super lightweight - snap a roast chicken thigh bone in half and you will find it is filled with air. These spaces are amazingly connected to the animal’s lungs, giving it greater oxygen storage capacity. Second, they have adapted to so many different lifestyles that their skeletons can be wondrously different between species. Finally, they have fused lots of their bones together, meaning way less bones to do the same job.

I love this North Island giant moa Dinornis novaezealandiae Moa pelvis, collected early last century from the Hawke's Bay. It is made up of three fused bones, stained brown from the swamp waters in which it was collected. If you didn’t know better, it could easily be mistaken for the skull of an alien from the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Predator.

Dinornis novaezealandiae (North Island Giant Moa); AWMM LB6873.