By ANUJA MITRA
Museums are places of both solace and intellectual stimulation, bringing us close to the past while reminding us how far we’ve come. Sadly, the Covid-19 crisis has led many museums around the world to temporarily close — our own Auckland Museum being no exception. Luckily, though, Auckland Museum At Home still allows you to experience Tāmaki Paenga Hira from the comfort of wherever you’re isolating.
Launched on the 2nd of April, this free online hub is brimming with resources including games, quizzes, videos, and articles. “From school children and teachers, to those wanting to deep-dive into our Anzac history, to those wanting to learn more about Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa while at home, there’s something for everyone,” says Auckland Museum Chief Executive David Gaimster. Far more than physical buildings, museums are symbols of our identity as a people. They’re one of the first places tourists circle on a map and a key site for learning how we began as a community (and a civilisation). That’s why it’s important that we can still support the work of Auckland Museum even if we aren’t able to physically walk through its doors.
You can, however, do a virtual walk-through using Google Street View and explore objects from Museum collections online. If you have antsy children in your bubble, the “For the Kids” section allows curious youngsters to examine 3D models of a little bush moa skeleton or white shark jaw. They can also learn the anatomy of a whale, investigate which creatures live in our oceans and take an interactive marine life quiz to test their knowledge. They can try an insect quiz once they’ve aced that, or print off a Backyard Bingo card to discover the flora and fauna living in their own garden. There’s also the Time Travellers video series, a playlist of short animated films for children about when the HMB Endeavour arrived in New Zealand in 1769. More activities are being added as the days go on, giving exasperated parents some respite from homeschooling restless kids.
There’s content for the older crowd too, with videos on topics in science and history and a “Cool Jobs” playlist affording a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the work of Museum staff. The selection of digestible “long reads” — blog posts from the archives — are also an easy way to learn something new while sitting in your pyjamas procrastinating (though is it really procrastinating if you’re using your brain?) View some forgotten images of Sir Edmund Hillary that reveal a lot about his life and career, including his humanitarian activities overseas. Another article provides a sneak peek of the Tāmaki Herenga Waka: Stories of Auckland exhibition, featuring photos taken by Auckland’s Belwood Studio in the mid-20th century. Many people in these photos are unidentified, so you might just uncover a long-lost photo of your relatives!
While the country’s lockdown will likely affect how we observe ANZAC day, the Museum’s Online Cenotaph is a poignant way to learn the stories of those involved in this chapter of history. The aim is to create a complete database of everyone who served New Zealand in WWI and other armed conflicts. If this includes your ancestors, you can contribute photos and information about their life. The site allows visitors to read people’s personal stories (both about their wartime service and their later life) and honour them by laying a virtual poppy.
Though we may be living through a scary period in history, it is vital that we stay strong and connected to one another. The Museum’s online hub is filled with things to see and do while you’re feeling bored or anxious in self-isolation. Whether you’re in the mood to learn about volcanoes, follow a 1940s recipe for Hot Cross Buns or complete a virtual jigsaw puzzle (they’re way harder than you think), Auckland Museum At Home is there to provide light and learning in these difficult times.
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Anuja is a Law & Arts student trying to fit creative endeavours into her never-ending degree. Full-time nerd and avocado enthusiast. She is probably currently ranting about something, re-organising her bookshelves or petting her multiple cats.