He Tohu a critical and popular hit

  • Peter Dunne
Internal Affairs

Three months since opening, the new He Tohu exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, is delivering on its purpose to engage more people with New Zealand’s key constitutional documents.

He Tohu has attracted almost 15,000 visitors since 20 May, including 48 school groups. It also reached more than 1.7 million impressions on Facebook and 50,000-plus YouTube views.

“It is really important we encourage young people to learn more about these documents through engagement with the exhibition in person and online.

“New Zealanders have embraced He Tohu’s vision of he whakapapa kōrero, he whenua kura – talking about our past, to create a better future,’’ said Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Peter Dunne.

A strong Crown and Māori partnership was integral to the exhibition’s development and success. Cabinet recently endorsed the continuation of this unique partnership with a kawenata or covenant for the 25-year lifespan of He Tohu.

“I am delighted that He Tohu’s Crown and Māori partnership will continue to enrich and support the exhibition for many years to come.

The exhibition also enables us to showcase this part of our history to foreign visitors and leaders and that is important in terms of conveying New Zealand’s story to an international audience”, says Mr Dunne.

Recent international visitors to He Tohu include the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

He Tohu features the 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine.

The documents are housed in a state of the art conservation room, surrounded by a lively interactive area, exploring the stories of the documents.

“He Tohu is also gaining accolades in other areas, as a finalist in six categories of the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand’s annual Best Design Awards, announced on 6 October.  This includes awards for the design of the space and exhibition’s interactive features.

“It is truly a world class exhibition, which all New Zealanders can be proud”, Mr Dunne said.

Background notes

•  Development of He Tohu began in 2014 as a partnership between Crown and Māori, and with significant input from women’s groups. 

•  The capital budget for this new permanent exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand was $7.2m.

•  Visitor numbers to He Tohu reached 10,000 just eight weeks after opening. This surpassed the average number of visitors to the former Constitution Room display at Archives New Zealand in any given year by up to 4,000.

•  He Tohu has three objectives: improving access to these key constitutional and political documents for all New Zealanders and visitors to our country; preserving our fragile and priceless documentary heritage for future generations and enhancing learning opportunities about the historical, constitutional and cultural significance of the documents for young New Zealanders.

•  He Tohu is presented by Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga and the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, both of which are part of the Department of Internal Affairs. The documents remain under the guardianship and care of Archives New Zealand Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.

He Tohu is at the National Library of New Zealand, 70 Molesworth Street, Wellington. The exhibition is open six days a week. Entry is free. #hetohu