Launch in new window

Womb - When I See You

You are here

Activist group welcomes Auckland Museum’s shift away from a ‘dusty old colonial museum’

5 March, 2024

Interview by Jessica Hopkins, adapted by Mahdhi Osman-Penrice

Peace Action Wellington activist Valerie Morse, says the Auckland Museum's move to a Te Tiriti-centric approach is about telling the truth about Aotearoa’s history. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In its annual draft plan published last month, the Auckland War Memorial Museum detailed how it intends to move from a “colonial museum” to a “Te Tiriti-led museum”.

The museum, which opened in 1929, has faced criticism from activists, who say the institution has hoarded stolen cultural objects, repeated false myths, and glorified war.

Peace Action Wellington member, Valerie Morse, told 95bFM’s The Wire that throughout its almost century-long history, the Auckland War Memorial Museum has failed to acknowledge its colonial past.

“[The museum] has not understood its role as part of a colonising project; a vehicle for projecting mythologies about peaceful race relations, or the peaceful settlement of Aotearoa.”

“We need truth in our history and our museum exhibitions need to be factual representations of things that have happened in the past, not glamorised, mythologised stories about war.”

Last year, activists defaced a Te Papa exhibition in Wellington to protest its display of an incorrect English translation of Te Tiriti.

Morse says museums in Aotearoa and around the world need to engage in processes of decolonisation and modernisation, work with communities to tell their stories and confront their role in "dangerous colonial myth-making".

Morse welcomes the Auckland War Memorial Museum recognising it needs to change with the times.

“It can’t stay a dusty old colonial museum.”

However, Morse is concerned some politicians will use the museum's move as “political football” against Māori rights.

“We have a government interested in politicising long-standing conventions and long long-standing understanding of what the treaty means, all in service of the consolidation of wealth and power.”

“Nothing the museum is doing is controversial.”

Listen to the full interview

Read Peace Action Wellington’s response to the Museum's draft plan 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air