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Museum on the Move

Graphics from the book, The Adventures of Tupaia, by artist Mat Tait and writer Courtney Sina Meredith feature in the pop-up exhibition Tupaia, Ata Hira: Museum on the Move.

Due to pop up in Gisborne on Saturday, the exhibition is drawn from an Auckland War Memorial Museum show that explores the story of Raiatea chief and arioi Tupaia who sailed on the Endeavour from Tahiti to New Zealand in 1769. The Auckland museum’s exhibition, Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour, is mothership to the touring show that travels to various landing sites of British explorer James Cook’s vessel, HMB Endeavour.

For its Gisborne stop-over the pop-up exhibition will be held on the Railway Station Reserve between the former railway station and Waikanae Creek. It is conceivable Cook, wealthy naturalist Joseph Banks, botanical illustrator Sydney Parkinson and some of the captain’s marines passed this spot after making landfall, and “leaving four boys to take care of the Yawl”, while they headed up the northern side of Waikanae Creek on October 8, 250 years ago.


Interactive components in Tupaia, Ata Hira: Museum on the Move bring Tupaia’s paintings to life with movement and song, and enable visitors to watch the Endeavour’s route unfold around New Zealand.

The exhibition includes Banks’ Florilegium, a collection of copperplate engravings of plants collected by the naturalist and Daniel Solander. From this region the Englishmen and the Swede collected specimens such as kaka beak, kowhai and karamu, plants they had never seen before, says the Auckland museum’s public programme content specialist Elliot Collins. Gisborne-focused crosswords for kids will also be available.

“We have some touch-screen animation for children of how kids saw the Endeavour’s arrival in the bay. The perspective has shifted from the ship looking to the land to looking out from the land and that strange world Tupaia found on the Endeavour.”

Organisers did not want the exhibition to be based on a “singular narrative”.

“That’s the old-museum way of doing things. People really want to know our stories, the multiple stories of engagements.”

Tupaia, Ata Hira focuses largely on the one-year period from the time Tupaia joined the expedition from the Society Islands to New Zealand.


Unlike Cook, Tupaia was nobly born. His family was one of the elite of Raiatea, in the Society Islands. After joining Cook’s expedition, Tupaia piloted the Endeavour through the islands.

“We’re not deleting any histories from the narrative,” says Collins. Multiple perspectives of Tupaia’s life in Tahiti, on board the Endeavour and his arrival to Aotearoa are central to the show.

“Tupaia learned how to paint from Banks and had a great interest in technology on the Endeavour.”

The pop-up exhibition was a good way to dovetail with the main exhibition at the Auckland War Memorial Museum which has one of the biggest collections of Pacific taonga in the world, says Collins.

“We’re adding more to the basket of the museum.”

Ata Hira — Museum on the Move: Voyage to Aotearoa, Railway Station Reserve, opens Saturday, October 5.

VOYAGERS: British explorer James Cook, Raiatea chief and arioi Tupaia, and a Maori warrior feature in this graphic by Mat Tait and will be part of the pop-up exhibition Tupaia, Ata Hira: Museum on the Move.