Gallipoli exhibition creates record at New Zealand’s national museum

Te Papa – New Zealand’s national museum in Wellington – has marked a record year for Gallipoli: The scale of our war.

Te Papa – New Zealand’s national museum in Wellington – has marked a record year for Gallipoli: The scale of our war.

More than 700,000 people have seen Gallipoli: The scale of our war in its first year, making it the most visited exhibition in Te Papa’s history. 

The ground-breaking exhibition was created by Te Papa, working closely with Weta Workshop, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War (1914 – 1918). Between 18 April 2015 and 18 April 2016, the exhibition has had 705,187 visitors. The next-most-visited exhibition at Te Papa was Air New Zealand: 75 Years with 389,000 visitors. 

“The scale of the public’s response to Gallipoli has been astonishing,” says Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis. “Beyond the sheer numbers, we have been humbled by the depth of feeling we see in our visitors.” 

"They are coming in family groups, they are immersing themselves in the information and the emotion, and they are leaving with a new understanding, and often, with tears in their eyes.”

Visitors are encouraged to share their response on a paper poppy which is left in the exhibition. Over half a million poppies have been left by visitors to date.  Many visitors leave comments or the name of a relative who fought. 

Weta Workshop’s Sir Richard Taylor, Creative Director of the exhibition, says the most amazing responses he has heard are from the extreme ends of the age scale. 

“I have a particular poppy that I love – ‘thank you soldier, sleep well, we love you’ from a seven-year-old girl. And a man, maybe in his 80s, came up to me and said ‘all I can think to do is crawl into a corner and weep’.” 

The $8 million exhibition will be on show at Te Papa until 2019. Entry is free. 

The exhibition features eight larger-than-life sculptures of real people who participated in the Gallipoli campaign. Weta Workshop artists contributed 24,000 hours of labour creating the detailed figures which measure up at 2.4 times life size. 

Richard Taylor paid tribute to the teamwork that brought together the worlds of movies and museums: “This was a creative collaboration between Te Papa and Weta Workshop, and together I think we achieved something very special.”

Specialised firms created many of the exhibition’s components, from 3D digital maps through to the specially manufactured larger-than-life boots. “There were eight separate Wellington-based companies involved, and the sense of near fanatical focus and pride that they brought to the project was extraordinary,” Taylor says. 

Information panels in the exhibition have recently been updated in light of new information which has almost doubled the number of New Zealand soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. 

Last month, new research confirmed previous speculation that the number of New Zealanders at Gallipoli was likely to have been much higher than the official 8,556 figure, and is likely to have been close to 17,000. 

“This new information confirms that the scale of New Zealand’s war was even greater than the official histories tell us,” says Te Papa’s Kirstie Ross, the exhibition’s lead curator. 

Te Papa is focused on making the exhibition as accessible as possible, with specialised tours including those for the deaf community, the blind and visually impaired, people with intellectual challenges.

Early bird tours at the start of each day enable visitors to book ahead and beat the queues, and can be booked on Te Papa’s website. 

Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum showcasing a bicultural experience across five areas; Art, History, Pacific, Māori, and Natural Environment.

Catering to young and old Te Papa is a special place that delivers an unforgettable experience.

You can find out more about the exhibition at including behind-the-scenes videos showing the creation of the exhibition.