Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The Auckland War Memorial Museum (or simply the Auckland Museum) is one of New Zealand's most important national museums and war memorials. Its collections concentrate on New Zealand history, natural history, as well as military history.

The museum is also one of the most iconic Auckland buildings, constructed in the neo-classicist style, and sitting on a grassed plinth (the remains of a dormant volcano) in the Auckland Domain, a large public park close to the Auckland CBD.

Building history

The museum was established in 1852, the present heritage building in the Domain being opened in 1929. It was extended in the late 1950s, when an administration annex with a large semi-circular courtyard was added to the southern rear."New beret for an old soldier" - " magazine", IPENZ, January/February 2008, Pages 23-27]


In the last two decades, the museum was renovated and extended in two stages. The first stage saw the existing building restored and the exhibits partly replaced during the 1990s for $NZ 43 million. The second stage of this restoration has seen a great dome / atrium constructed within the central courtyard, increasing the building's floor area by 60% (an addition of 9,600 m²) for a price of $NZ 64.5 million. $NZ 27 million of that was provided by the government, with the [ ASB Trust] ($NZ 12.9 million) and other donors making up the remainder [" [ Spectacular makeover nearly ready] " - New Zealand Herald, Saturday 9 September 2006, page A13] . The second stage finished in 2007.

The copper and glass dome, as well as the viewing platform / event centre underneath it had been criticised by some as 'resembling a collapsed soufflé', but quickly won the admiration of critics and public, being noted for 'its undulating lines, which echo the volcanic landscape and hills around Auckland'. Standing in the event centre underneath the top of the dome was likened to being underneath the 'cream-coloured belly of a giant stingray', 'with its rippling wings hovering over the distinctive city skyline'." [ View from museum's dome beats all criticism] " - New Zealand Herald, Thursday 16 November 2006] In June 2007, the 'Grand Atrium' project also received the Supreme Award of the New Zealand Property Council, which noted it as being "world-class", and a successful exercise in combining complex design and heritage demands. It has also received the ACENZ Innovate NZ Gold Award (Structural Engineering) for the redevelopment." [ Museum's grand atrium project takes top award] " - "New Zealand Herald", Saturday June 30, 2007] Auckland Museum Grand Atrium Project - "Innovate NZ", Brochure of the '2007 ACENZ Awards of Excellence', Page 6]

The new sections underneath the dome, mostly contained within a kauri-wood-panelled sphere approximately 30 m across, will add 900 m² of additional exhibition space, as well as a 700 people event centre under the dome roof with a 48 m wide free span, new areas for tour and school groups including an auditorium in the sphere/bowl with 200 seats, as well as a restaurant with 450 seats. The bowl which is the internal centre-piece of the expansion weighs 700 tonnes and is suspended free-hanging from trusses spanning over it from the elevator four shafts located around it. A new 204-spaces underground parking garage at the rear has also been constructed to help cover the high demand for parking in the Auckland Domain. [ [ The Grand Atrium spaces] (from the Museum homepage)]

The new sections of the museum have been favourably likened to a Matryoshka doll, buildings nested within a building.

;Possible train station

There have been preliminary talks of building a new railway station (possibly featuring the historic station building of the Newmarket Train Station) in the Parnell suburb directly to the east of the Museum. It is thought that such a station would see high demand from Museum visitors, especially students and school children." [ Delight at Government's decision to reopen Onehunga line] " - "New Zealand Herald", Wednesday 14 March 2007]

Collections and exhibitions

The museum houses the largest collection of Māori and Pacific Island artefacts and treasures in New Zealand, including for example three entire buildings and a waka (war canoe) from 1830. The museum also stores a photographic collection of 1.2 million images, and stores and exhibits 1.5 million natural history specimens from the fields of botany, entomology, geology, land vertebrates and marine biology. The stated goal is to eventually possess specimens from all New Zealand species. [ [ Permanent collections] (from the Museum homepage)]

There is also an extensive permanent exhibition covering wars, both within New Zealand and New Zealand's participation in overseas conflicts. This exhibition is linked to the War Memorial (see below), and for example shows models of Maori pas (earth fortifications) and original Spitfire and Mitsubishi Zero airplanes.

The museum also offers changing special exhibitions. In the recent past (2006), these have included a Da Vinci and a Vikings exhibition. The initial exhibition after the grand re-opening in early December 2006 was 'Vaka Moana', a show about the first polynesian explorers reaching New Zealand. Afterwards, the exhibition will travel the world for several years.

War Memorial

Parts of the museum, as well as the Cenotaph and its surrounding consecrated grounds (Court of Honour) in front of the Museum, also serve as a war memorial, mainly to those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. There are two 'Halls of Memory' within the museum, whose walls, together with a number of additional marble slabs, list the names of all known New Zealand soldiers killed in major conflicts during the 20th Century. [ [ War Memorial] (from the Museum homepage)]

RSA representatives have noted that the Cenotaph area is in need of renovation, and also would like measures put in place that ensure the area is treated with more respect by people using the park or visiting the museum. Auckland City was considering replacement the old concrete paving with granite and basalt pavers. [" [ RSA and museum seek Cenotaph upgrade] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Tuesday 03 January 2006] This was apparently decided against, possibly for cost reasons. The city has however conducted substantial remedial works, to improve the condition of the existing Court of Honour, including repairs to and lighting of the steps, uplighting of the Cenotaph, as well as general cleaning and a new interpretive engraving provided by the Auckland RSA. [ [ Museum and Cenotaph Master Plan] (from the Auckland City Council website. Accessed 2008-03.26.)]


External links

* [ Auckland War Memorial Museum] (official website)

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