“Wellington Museum? Oh, you mean Te Papa?”
“Where is it?”
“On the waterfront, about ten minutes walk from Te Papa, towards the Railway Station.”
“It used to be called Museum of Wellington City and Sea?”
“Ah… I love that museum!’

It can go either way really – complete puzzlement or absolute delight. There are around twenty staff who work at Wellington Museum daily, and we’ve all had a version of this conversation, multiple times. It can seem like Wellington Museum, as we are now called, is one of Wellington’s best kept secrets.

Above is my favourite picture of our building, The Bond Store, taken around 1900 as a steam train returns from Te Aro on a seemingly invisible track. That’s where Jervois Quay is these days.

1913 Crowd at Queen's Wharf
Crowd at Queens Wharf, Wellington, during the 1913 Waterfront Strike. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-046169-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22836257

And this is a picture from the Wellington Waterfront strike 1913. There are lots of great pics of the Bond Store (top right) from this time, but I’ve chosen this one for the impossibly cool couple in the foreground: He’s looking to our left, cigarette to his lips, hand in pocket, waistcoat displaying a pretty sweet watch chain; she’s watching the action, turned away from us, several animal parts draped luxuriously over her shoulders. Those were the days, eh? Alexander Turnbull Library says: “In the distance, strikers have climbed the wharf gates to prevent the handling of cargo by non-union workers.”

The next is from later in the day perhaps. It has started to rain and the watersiders look back at us from 102 years ago, the entire Bond Store building in the background. More about the 1913 strikes at Te Ara or NZhistory.

1913 Crowd in rain looking back
Probably a scene during the Waterfront Strike of 1913, Wellington. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-046581-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23080546

If you live in Wellington, you may not have given much thought to Wellington Museum’s building, The Bond Store, until recently, when it was completely wrapped in white plastic with red bulls-eye signs.

Finally this week, the wrap came off! But we still have some work to do yet…

Under wrap


The Bond Store is our most treasured taonga*. It is both the house for our exhibitions and an element of the exhibitions. So when we began redeveloping the museum, we took inspiration from the building itself – the architecture, the smell, the personality of this historic place.

Attic 1

Attic 2

With Wellington’s history of earthquakes and fires, there aren’t that many buildings as old as The Bond Store, and it looks like there will be even fewer in the next ten years with sensible but expensive new earthquake strengthening timelines planned.

Frederick de Jersey Clere designed the building in 1890, and each successive use of The Bond Store has maintained and enhanced unique features of the original design. We can’t wait to open the latest element of Wellington Museum – The Attic. We’re pretty sure it will imprint itself indelibly on the memories of Wellingtonians and visitors from elsewhere. Here is a tantalising taste of what’s to come late 2015:

cook lighting 2 crop

And we’ll be bringing you stories from Museums Wellington in this space. That means not just Wellington Museum, but Space Place at Carter Observatory, The Cable Car Museum and Nairn St Cottage. Now, back to these guys…

Crowd gathered in Post Office Square, Wellington, during the 1913 Waterfront Strike. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972 :Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-048787. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22760034

*taonga: (noun) treasure, anything prized – applied to anything considered to be of value including socially or culturally valuable objects, resources, phenomenon, ideas and techniques.  www.maoridictionary.co.nz