13, 25, 100. These are the numbers that sum up the Waikato Museum: 13 galleries, 25 new exhibitions, and 100 annual public events.
Located on the banks of the Waikato River, Hamilton’s regional museum opened in 1987, and was designed by Architect Ivan Mercep of the Auckland architectural firm Jasmax, formerly known as the JASMad Group Ltd. The museum’s design integrated its interior and exterior with the surrounding environment, specifically the steep riverbanks upon which it stands.
The institution’s name has been changed to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato (ooh, try saying that five times real quick) by way of increasing the focus on Maori heritage and culture, but the sterling standard for its range of exhibits, educational, and public programs remains constant to this day, the most recent of which include the following:
1. Te Haerenga The Journey: Toward Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. (5 August – 26 November 2017)
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that Te Whare Taonga o Waikato is the Maori name for the Waikato Museum, and this exhibition shows exactly how this purpose-built museum and art gallery came into being in its thirty years of development.
2. The Cold Islanders. (26 August – 3 December 2017)
These artists participating in this exhibit all drew inspiration from how the first generation of Pacific migrants had to adjust to Aotearoa’s cold winters. Thus, the works on display hint at grandparents’ watery memories, dreamy voyages across the ocean, and the tribe’s ancient chants and images for ensuring that the ocean will never freeze.
3. Geometry. (23 September 2017 – 14 January 2018)
Here, artists from various cultures recreate geometric shapes that naturally occur all around us. Line, color, tonal scale, and contrast are employed to create illusions of depth, distance, and scale that is characteristic of pure geometric abstraction.
4. 30 Years on Grantham Street. (5 August – 26 November 2017)
While Te Haerenga The Journey is all about how the museum was built, the 30 Years exhibit focuses on the establishment’s highlights throughout its three decades of existence. Its forerunner institutions, diverse collections, and evolving role in the community all feature prominently in this part of the structure.
5. Ngaa Taonga: Treasures from Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. (1 September – 29 October 2017).
Over 30,000 artifacts of Maori art, social history, and science can be found within the establishment’s walls, representing well over three decades since the museum began to form its collection. In line with its renewed focus on Maori culture, much of what is displayed in this exhibit reflects the cultural heritage of Waikato-Tainui and its colonial history, as well as art from the region.
Apart from seasonal displays, the museum also has some pretty standard exhibits that capitalize on New Zealand’s unique heritage. The poignantly-named “For Us They Fell,” for instance, commemorates the human stories of Waikato’s populace during the First World War: ordinary people who fought, died, and survived during this tumultuous period in history, while “Te Whaanau Maarama” isn’t a song from Disney’s “Moana” (I just had to go there), but rather, the traditional Maori societal view of the night sky and how such is being revitalized in the modern world.
And if you’ve ever been curious about why Waikato is considered the country’s dairy capital, the “Milk Matters: Towards Sustainable Dairying” exhibit will fill you in and educate you on how milk is made and processed along the way.
The Waikato Museum is located at 1 Grantham Street, at the South End of Victoria Street, Hamilton 3204. It opens daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Christmas Day. Entry is free of charge, but some fees might apply to select attractions. Donations are very much welcome too.