The History Collection is a rich and diverse store of some 25,000 items. There are over 7000 items of dress and textiles, the oldest of which dates back to the sixteenth century. An ‘international’ collection holds some 2000 items from Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas, including material collected by James Cook during his voyages.
The New Zealand Post archive is a valuable collection of around 20,000 stamps and related material. There are historical weapons, coins and medals; ceramics from the old world and from modern New Zealand; a furniture collection of around 250 items; precious metalwork; and rare books, photographs, and papers.
Since 1993, the Pacific Collection has been a separate section of the History Collection. It contains around 13,000 items and includes both historical and contemporary material from the Pacific islands.
Te Papa’s History Collection has changed and been shaped by many influences over time. The last twenty years of the twentieth century brought new priorities to collecting, shaped by different intellectual and artistic concerns, a sharply evolving sense of cultural identity, and the policies of museology that have underpinned the development of Te Papa.
This new spirit has resulted in a more dynamic engagement with New Zealand’s history and social culture, and a shift away from the international. Most objects that are collected now have a strong link to New Zealand’s cultural heritage, including material that illustrates the cultures of origin of the New Zealand population.