At the top of a hill sits this one of a kind museum. Why is it so unique? It is a war memorial with a museum on the inside. I have never seen another museum like this in all my life. The museum had a range of artifacts from South Pacific to natural history. They even have a performance hall which I will talk about more later. It is in the section of the Auckland called Parnell. There are a ton of fantastic restaurants and shopping in the area, but the highlight is truly the museum. Best way to get there is to grab a bus since there is really no parking lot or taxi cabs near the area.
First portion of the museum that one must take a note of is the war memorial. On the outside there is a plaque covered in cascading water honoring the fallen soldiers of World War I with two cannons on either side. For a quick history lesson, the people of New Zealand fought under the British Empire during World War I. Inside on the top floor is marble walls lined with the name of local men and women who died while serving during all the various wars. They do not list the rank or service number of the fallen because in death, we are all equal (however, a service number was listed if there were multiples of a name). They even display and preserve war medals if members of the community should they choose to donate it. My grandfather who served as Navy pilot and is the biggest history buff I know felt that this museum was the best war museum ever. It respected the memories of the dead and the history behind each piece. These war piece even date back to the New Zealand wars or when New Zealand was claimed by the crown. These items were in fantastic shape and represented the rich history of New Zealand that feeds into the culture of today.
The second part of the Auckland museum is the museum portion itself. The artifacts are amazing. The history of New Zealand can be found in the early artifacts from the Māori culture such as the entire war ship (by the way has this amazing history because it was traded for a cloak which was very valuable at the time) and they even have a Hotunui (meeting house) which you can enter and explore at leisure. Pay special attention to the carvings and weaving displayed. These were valued by the people so much they would bury them during time of war so that they would not be destroyed. There is also many other artifacts from the South Pacific which are a beauty to see in person. These artifacts show you what the people from history valued and developed in order to thrive. However, these are not the only artifacts that this museum has cultivated over the years. Have you ever heard of a Moa? Well this giant bird is part of their natural history collection. Moa was an Emu like bird that would hide in the bush when the people first landed but died out due to the introduction of rats and humans. This bird represents the unique ecosystem in New Zealand that they protect so vigilantly. New Zealand’s wildlife has a huge variety of birds that became flightless over the years due to no natural predator. Really cool, right?
Now, one of the features that this museum has that helps tell the history of New Zealand. They have a performance hall. The hall at the time I was visiting only had one show, a Māori culture show. This is important because the people told their history through their language with chants, and songs. It wasn’t the best Māori performance I have seen but if you don’t have time during your trip to go to one of the local culture centers then this is a good one to see to get a flavor of what the Māori culture is like.
This is a must see if you are in Auckland so that you can get the history and a deeper understanding of New Zealand. Spend the day wandering it’s halls and study all artifacts carefully as it is a more than you think it is.