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Topic: Canterbury Earthquake Collection

Is part of topic History at Te Papa

Canterbury Earthquake Collection

The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 are among the most significant events in New Zealand’s history. The most devastating earthquake struck at 12.51pm on 22 February 2011. The 6.3 earthquake caused severe damage and resulted in the loss of 185 lives in Christchurch and its suburbs, with many injured and displaced.

In the following weeks and months, New Zealanders and people around the world opened their hearts. Many gave time, resources and money to help the people of Christchurch and Canterbury.

Since then, Te Papa has been collecting objects and filming stories around the earthquakes – particularly around public support, such as fundraising and spirit-raising initiatives, and around creative and entrepreneurial responses to the earthquakes. From precious jewellery to tea-towels, these objects and their makers tell a multitude of stories from those at the epicentre to the rest of New Zealand.

Some of the objects are embedded with the most abiding symbols and sayings of the period. The heart in particular became the key symbol of care and support. ‘Kia kaha’ (be strong) became a common saying, inscribed on many objects. Several objects feature the Christchurch Cathedral at the heart of the city – the damaged church has become the key symbol of devastation, but also hope for renewal.

Even though Te Papa has not collected any objects actually damaged in the earthquakes, it has collected evidence of damaged buildings and liquefaction recycled into objects of meaning and beauty. The collection also documents the incredibly hard work of groups such as the Student Volunteer Army.

In consultation with Canterbury Museum, Te Papa’s collection will continue to grow through this process.

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