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New Zealand History, Culture and Conflict: A Museum Perspective

Discover the social history of Aotearoa New Zealand, learning how the country’s bicultural national consciousness was formed.

Two men stand in profile, pressing their noses together in a traditional Māori hongi. The man on the left is Māori with dark hair and brown skin. The man on the right is European with light skin and ginger hair and beard. They stand in front of a marae.
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Identify the factors that have contributed to New Zealand’s cultural identity

New Zealand’s social history is built on a foundation of exploration and colonial conflict.

On this three-week course, you’ll access artefacts, treasures, and exhibitions within Te Papa Tongarewa’s collections to discover how New Zealand culture has evolved over time, identifying key historical moments that have impacted the formation of a national identity.

Track the migration of the first Māori people to settle on these islands

Travelling back to ~1280 AD, you’ll learn how Pacific navigators braved the ocean to become the first human settlers of Aotearoa.

You’ll learn how they made these islands their own, creating a culture reflecting the natural environment around them using folklore and festivities.

Building on this knowledge, you’ll explore how contemporary New Zealanders are taking steps to protect their heritage and recognise Māori customs.

Examine the impact of British colonialism and the power struggle that followed

With the arrival of western explorers and British settlers came conflict, colonisation, and a bloody legacy that is still felt today.

You’ll chart how colonialism threatened the Māori way of life, eventually resulting in the Treaty of Waitangi. You’ll assess the reasons for the treaty and analyse the problems it created.

Viewing the treaty from an indigenous perspective, you’ll be able to identify colonial bias and reflect on the impact of the treaty on people today.

Explore the role of Te Papa Tongarewa as a living museum

The ever evolving bicultural society of Aotearoa has helped shape a nation’s unique perspective on culture and heritage.

In the final week of this course, you’ll learn how Te Papa Tongarewa continues to protect and preserve Māori culture, bringing together social and natural history to celebrate a fascinating, yet complex culture.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Tangata Whenua

    • Introduction

      Welcome to the Course!

    • Early Arrivals

      The first human arrivals in Aotearoa New Zealand were long-distance Pacific navigators. In this activity we learn how they did it, and are introduced to Māori culture.

    • By the Moon & Stars

      An introduction to Matariki and Maramataka, the Māori lunar stellar calendar. This guided food gathering and planting rhythms, and embody both te ao Māori (the Māori wordview), and matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems).

    • Reflection

      Let's reflect on what we've covered in Week One

  • Week 2

    Colonisation and Conflict

    • Introduction

      Introduction to Week Two – Colonisation & Conflict.

    • First Meetings

      Māori were the sole inhabitants of Aotearoa for over 500 years developing a rich culture. In this section we will look at that from a museum perspective, then see what happened following the arrival of Captain Cook and his crew.

    • Te Tiriti o Waitangi

      In this section we learn about the New Zealand Wars and the Kingitanga movement. We will also be introduced to Aotearoa New Zealand's founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), its flaws, and its legacy.

    • Reflection

      Let's reflect on Week Two

  • Week 3

    The museum as a place for living culture

    • Introduction

      An introduction to Week Three of the course

    • The Living Museum

      In this section we will consider the role of museums as places for living culture, and the importance of letting communities share their own stories in our institutions.

    • Inside Te Papa

      A glimpse inside Te Papa Tongarewa; at a past exhibition co-curated with the Museums most recent iwi-in-residence - Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow, and at the museum's marae and spiritual heart, Rongomaraeroa.

    • Reflection

      Let's reflect on Week three, and the course as a whole.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe ways that early Pacific Navigators made it to New Zealand shores
  • Summarise some Māori ways of tracking the year and seasons
  • Summarise key events and conflicts in New Zealand’s social history including the Treaty of Waitangi
  • Compare how New Zealand colonial/indigenous relationships may differ from those in other nations
  • Engage with Museum based cultural education in New Zealand

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in the Pacific region, museums, science, history, culture, or the arts.

It is suitable for anyone wanting to gain introductory insights into New Zealand history and culture.

Who will you learn with?

Mel is part of the Learning Team within Te Papa Tongarewa. She has a background in science, education & communication and has worked with researchers and curators to create these courses for you.

Who developed the course?

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa’s vision for the future is to change hearts, minds, and lives.

Our role is to be a forum for the nation to present, explore, and preserve the heritage of its cultures and knowledge of the natural environment. Te Papa was established with this role by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992.

  • Established

    1992
  • Location

    Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
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